Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi, champions of Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2016 and 2017 respectively, will lock horns today in the fourth match of the latest instalment of the tournament in Dubai.
This year, United had to rebuild their entire top-order after they lost Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif to five-year bans — and most would agree that the team managers did a brilliant job.
They have struck the right combination — a good mixture of experienced international players with young domestic talent — in every facet of the game.
Their opening options include Luke Ronchi and Sahibzada Farhan, both of whom have been in top form in limited-overs cricket, with Alex Hales available on the bench as a supplementary player.
United — one of the only two franchises to have retained the same captain (Misbah-ul-Haq) since the start of the PSL (the other being the Sarfraz Ahmed-led Quetta Gladiators) — appointed left-arm medium-pacer Raees as their vice-captain for this season.
Having lost their director of cricket, Wasim Akram, to the Multan Sultans, United swiftly moved to replace one W with another, bringing in his former strike partner Waqar Younis for the role.
Meanwhile, spin maestro Saeed Ajmal, who played two seasons for United before retiring from all forms of cricket in November last year, has been appointed as the spin bowling coach.
Australia’s Dean Jones reprises the head coaching position.
After impressing during the first edition but falling short of qualifying for the final, Zalmi had powered through the second time and emerged as winners in front of a capacity crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
This year, the Zalmis started the tournament off as favourites, but may soon be knocked off that spot by Multan Sultans who have bagged wins in both their matches so far.
Zalmi have been phenomenal with both the bat and the ball in the previous editions, but with Hasan Ali’s injury, Afridi’s departure and Dwayne Bravo’s unavailability, their attack has been weakened.
In their absence, Wahab Riaz has had to lead the bowling attack, a feat he wasn’t fully able to execute in the first match where he took two wickets and conceded 19 runs.
Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Akmal, Liam Dawson (cover for Shakib Al Hasan), Darren Sammy (captain), Umaid Asif (cover for Hasan Ali), Haris Sohail, Chris Jordan, Mohammad Asghar, Dwayne Smith, Tamim Iqbal, Hammad Azam, Saad Nasim, Taimoor Sultan, Sameen Gul, Ibtisam Shaikh, Andre Fletcher, Rikki Wessels, Khalid Usman and Mohammad Arif
Misbah ul Haq (Captain), Alex Hales, Asif Ali, JP Duminy, Iftikhar Ahmed, Sahibzada Farhan, Amad Butt, Andre Russell, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Hussain Talat, Steven Finn (replaced David Willey), Sam Billings, Luke Ronchi, Mohammad Hasan, Rohail Nazir, Mohammad Sami, Rumman Raees (vice captain), Samuel Badree, Zafar Gohar, Mohammad Hasnain (injured), Samit Patel (as cover for Asela Gunaratne who was a cover for JP Duminy), Chadwick Walton (cover for Sam Billings)