PSL 2019: Rejuvenated Lahore Qalandars up against table-toppers Quetta Gladiators

Aditya Devavrat 21:42 22/02/2019
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AB de Villiers. Image: PSL/Twitter.

Four games into the Pakistan Super League season and Lahore Qalandars have done the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde act. This is a team that lost its first game because it couldn’t defend 171, then won its next one by defending an even lower target of 138. After that, they were bowled out for 78 in a humiliating defeat, but on Friday the batting line-up responded by chasing down a 201-run target to win a thriller against Multan Sultans.

So which version will show up against the high-flying Quetta Gladiators?

One good sign for Lahore is that AB de Villiers looks to have shaken off the rust, hitting an unbeaten fifty, including one jaw-dropping six off a reverse scoop  – the sort of shot that only de Villiers can think of, let alone play. If he’s in that form, Quetta are in trouble.

For the team currently on top of the table, the formula is simple: bowl first, restrict the other team to a middling total, then chase it down. It’s worked in all three games for the Gladiators so far – incidentally, they’ve made exactly 161 runs all three of their chases – and given the chance, they’ll look to replicate the plan on Saturday.

Shane Watson is the in-form man at the top of the order, powering two of their three wins, while Umar Akmal’s return to form is a welcome sign.

But the key battle will be Lahore’s star-studded – if inconsistent – batting line-up against Quetta’s spinners, and especially Fawad Ahmed. The Pakistan-born former Australia international has taken four wickets for 37 runs in eight overs across the last two matches, but will he able to replicate that against Fakhar Zaman, AB de Villiers, David Wiese, and Salman Butt?

And speaking of Butt. The former Pakistan captain is sure to be the dominant subplot for the season after making his PSL debut on Friday as he continues to make his way back from the 2010 spot-fixing scandal. There was little reaction from the Sharjah crowd when he walked out onto the pitch in Lahore’s win, thought that might change if Lahore make the semi-finals, which will be played in Pakistan.

Lahore have a decision to make over their wicket-keeping spot after Brendan Taylor suffered a calf injury during Friday’s chase. In all likelihood, Gauhar Ali will slot in for the Zimbabwean, though youngster Umair Masood is also in the squad and there is always the option, however unlikely, of giving De Villiers the gloves and adding another pure batsman.

LIKELY XIs

Lahore Qalandars: Fakhar Zaman, Sohail Akhtar, Salman Butt, AB de Villiers (c), David Wiese, Gauhar Ali (wk), Sandeep Lamichhane, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Rahat Ali

Quetta Gladiators: Shane Watson, Ahsan Ali, Rilee Rossouw, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Dwayne Smith, Ghulam Mudassar, Sohail Tanvir, Fawad Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz

Match starts 15:30 UAE time

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