It’s the battle of the champions and perennial strugglers in the opening clash of the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League.
Defending champions Islamabad United take on Lahore Qalandars at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday with an eye on getting the perfect start to their campaign under the leadership of fast bowler Mohammad Sami.
The Qalandars, however, have South Africa ace AB de Villiers in their line-up and he will be the pivot around which the entire team will revolve. Captain Mohammad Hafeez will be hoping ABD can replicate his superb form in Bangladesh Premier League in UAE where he smashed 100 off just 50 balls while batting for Rangpur Riders.
Islamabad too have a T20 ace up their sleeve – leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan. Named vice-captain of the team, Shadab has grown exponentially as a player across formats and provides variety and leadership qualities that will help Sami.
How the ABD-Shadab showdown pans out will have a major impact on the outcome of the opening clash. The weather in Dubai is tricky at the moment and pitches in UAE at this time of the year aid spinners and seamers alike.
Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane is in Australia, helping Melbourne Stars navigate the final stages of the Big Bash League. His absence will be felt by Qalandars. But veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah should keep things together for Lahore.
Islamabad: Mohammad Sami (capt), Luke Ronchi (wk), Sahibzada Farhan, Hussain Talat, Cameron Delport, Samit Patel, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Wayne Parnell, Rumman Raees
Lahore: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Anton Devcich, AB de Villiers, Agha Salman, Umair Masood (wk), David Wiese, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Hardus Viljoen, Shaheen Afridi
Match begins at 21:45 (UAE time)
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