PSL 2019: Salman Butt drafted in by Lahore Qalandars to replace injured Mohammad Hafeez

Waseem Ahmed 19/02/2019
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Salman Butt has been drafted in by Lahore Qalandars as a replacement for the injured Mohammad Hafeez.

His role with the team for the remainder of the Pakistan Super League 2019 season will be Butt’s biggest involvement in professional cricket since his return following a five-year ban. The batsman was suspended for his part in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal.

After finishing bottom of the standings in the last three editions of the T20 league, Lahore assembled a good team on paper for this year’s tournament. Hafeez’s thumb injury however was a major setback for their ambitions and they’re hoping Butt can fill the void with AB de Villiers taking over as captain.

With Hafeez ruled out for at least a month, Butt will be expected to bat in the No3 slot and his T20 record suggests he would be a good fit.

The 34-year-old has averaged 55.35 in T20s since his return, racking up 941 runs in 24 innings including nine half-centuries.

Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – the other two players who were also banned along with Butt – have returned to cricket as well.

Amir has gone on to play in all three formats for the national team since his return and features for Karachi Kings in the PSL.

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PSL 2019: Shahid Afridi believes the league's bowling quality is best in the world

Waseem Ahmed 19/02/2019
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Shahid Afridi. Image credit - @thePSLt20/Twitter.

Veteran all-rounder Shahid Afridi has credited the Pakistan Super League (PSL) for changing the outlook of the national team in limited-overs cricket.

Afridi, who is turning out for Multan Sultans in the ongoing fourth edition, believes the impact of the PSL on Pakistan cricket as a whole has been tremendous.

“I think from the first year in 2016 to the fourth year, the PSL has become our brand and our identity. It is our respect. Whatever the talent is there in the Pakistan team – mostly in Twenty20s and ODIs – have been groomed in the PSL,” the veteran told PSL’s official website.

Since its inaugural edition in 2016, the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has played a significant role in discovering young talent for the national team with the likes of Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi being some of the biggest examples.

38-year-old Afridi is under no doubt that the ongoing edition of the league will throw up a few more future Pakistan stars.

“The leagues around the world are doing that purpose of finding talented players and then polishing their skills. So far, so good, I would say for the PSL and since talent is coming to the fore I can say that the PSL is successful,” Multan’s star man said.

“I can see three to four players who can come and break into the national team from this year’s PSL. It’s the start so let them show more skills in tougher matches and before bigger crowds, so I could see how they do in that, then only I would be able to tell the names,” he added.

Having played in multiple T20 franchise leagues around the globe, Afridi is under no doubt that the PSL has the best quality when it comes to the bowling department.

“I think every league has its standard but overall when I speak to the players from Bangladesh, England and Australia they say that the bowling in the PSL is the best and challenging,” the former Pakistan international stated.

“At this age, I wait for the PSL more than any other league.”

Afridi and Multan Sultans will be in action once again on Wednesday in the PSL when they take on Quetta Gladiators at Sharjah. The all-rounder was in great form in Multan’s recent win over Islamabad United with figures of 2-18 with the ball and an unbeaten match-winning cameo of 16 with the bat.

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PSL 2019: Umar Akmal's resurgence and other major surprises from week one

Waseem Ahmed 19/02/2019
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Umar Akmal in action. Image credit - @thePSLt20/Twitter.

It has been an action-packed first week in the 2019 Pakistan Super League (PSL) to say the least.

After seven entertaining matches spread across four days, the league moves from Dubai to Sharjah ahead of an intriguing week two.

There has been no shortage of entertainment in the past seven games with plenty of them going right down to the wire. Many old experienced heads have turned on the style while a few newcomers have taken the league by storm.

Here, we take a look at some of the major surprises from week one.

Liam Livingstone dazzles on PSL debut

While Liam Livingstone’s exploits might be a name all too familiar to Lancashire supporters, the Englishman was hardly a known quantity at the international level before he was picked up by Karachi Kings in the PSL player draft last year.

It didn’t take too long for PSL fans to understand why Livingstone is so highly in demand in T20 leagues around the world these days with the opening batsman smashing 82 off just 43 balls on his Karachi debut.

The right-hander forged a record 157-run stand along with Babar Azam against Multan Sultans and managed to overshadow his opening partner with some sensational hitting that fetched him six sixes and as many boundaries.

No wonder then that the Rajasthan Royals have shelled out the big bucks to land the England batsman for the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League.

Umar Akmal turns back the clock

Once heralded as one of the most promising batsmen to emerge from Pakistan, Akmal had ultimately ended up as a cautionary tale for ‘talent gone to waste’ with the multiple controversies that have followed him since his international debut.

No longer a part of the Pakistan set-up, Akmal was in danger of fading into obscurity despite being at an age where most batsmen usually hit their prime.  His last PSL season with Lahore Qalandars had been a disastrous one with the talented batsman scoring only 57 runs in his five appearances.

It appears Lahore’s loss is Quetta Gladiators’ gain with the right-hander putting up two excellent performances in his two outings so far. His unbeaten 50-ball 75 helped Quetta chase down a stiff total against Peshawar Zalmi and he followed that up with a fluent 44 in the win over Islamabad United.

Such have been his displays that skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has already starting talking up a potential Pakistan return for the batsman.

Umer Khan makes the most of Abrar Ahmed’s fitness woes

While several young Pakistan talents have made their marks in the first week, Umer Khan of Karachi Kings has perhaps been the most dramatic story. The 19-year-old left-arm orthodox spinner has gone for less than six runs an over in his two appearances and picked up three crucial wickets including that of Lahore ace AB de Villiers.

Umer wasn’t a part of the 20-man initial Karachi squad for the tournament and was only picked later from the franchise’s scouting and development programme where he was spotted by Rashid Latif.

Still, the youngster was firmly behind another young spinner in the form Abrar Ahmed when it came to the Karachi pecking order. It was only an injury to Ahmed that has provided Umer with his two opportunities and the youngster has grabbed it with both hands.

It will be interesting to see if the Rawalpindi-born teenager can keep up these displays as the tournament progresses.

Another fine display by Umer. Image - @thePSLt20/Twitter.

Another fine display by Umer. Image – @thePSLt20/Twitter.

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