Sarfraz Ahmed © AFP
Sarfraz Ahmed © AFP

The cricketing season is upon us. With so many T20 tournaments always hogging spectators’ attention from time to time, the second month of 2017 brings the first franchise-cricket tournament of the year in form of Pakistan Super League (PSL). The second edition of PSL starts on Thursday with the first clash between Islamabad United and Peshawar  Zalmi. The second game is between runners-up from first edition, Quetta Gladiators, and Lahore Qalandars on Friday. Sarfraz Ahmed‘s Gladiators take on Brendon McCullum‘s Qalandars and will hope for a promising season. The match will be played at Dubai International Stadium, Dubai.

In the previous edition, both teams had contrasting season with Sarfraz-led Gladiators finishing second whereas McCullum’s side struggled,finishing at the last spot. Sarfraz will be itching to have another rollicking season as skipper and the news of him being appointed as Pakistan’s ODI captain will also keep him in good stead. The key players from his camp will be Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Tymal Mills, Kevin Peitersen, Mahmudullah, Umar Gul and Luke Wright.

Gladiators have the right balance with hard-hitters like Shehzad, Pietersen and Wright and bowlers like Mills and Gul spearheading their pace attack. In the spin arsenal, they can bank upon Nathan McCullum and Zulfiqar Babar whereas they have  good all-rounders in form of Mahmudullah and Thisara Perera. Peitersen got starts but could not convert it big last time and will look to turn the tables this time around. Gul was not upto the mark but Shafiq got a recall into the ODI side after a promising season last year. Many others like the trio mentioned will be expected to contribute this season. Overall, Gladiators have enough firepower to settle in T20Is and will hope for another high-spirited season.

On the other hand, Qalandars will want their skipper McCullum to have a fruitful season to stay ahead in the league. They too have enough star power in their ranks with Umar Akmal (leading run-getter from PSL 2016) and all-rounders like Grant Elliot and James Franklin. Azhar Ali and Jason Roy will be expected to churn out runs at the top-order. With the ball, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Rizwan, Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah will be  expected to curb the run-flow.

Nonetheless, if Tanvir got a recall into Pakistan’s T20I side with a good showing in PSL 2016, Narine and Yasir were outplayed. The spin duo will want to come to terms with their past failures and make up for a decent outing right from their first match. Their trump card will be Umar Akmal, who was in a blistering form with 335 runs in 7 matches with 4 fifties.

He surely looks in his groove and has given a sneak peek of his mindset.

One can expect more such ‘entertainment’ on and off the field in PSL 2017 and a cracker of a contest between these two sides on Friday evening.

Squads:

Quetta Gladiators: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Bismillah Khan, Hasan Khan, Nathan McCullum, Mahmudullah, Tymal Mills, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Nawaz, Noor Wali, Thisara Perera, Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Rossouw, Saad Nasim, Umar Amin, Umar Gul, Luke Wright, Zulfiqar Babar

Lahore Qalandars: Brendon McCullum (c), Aamer Yamin, Azhar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Cameron Delport, Grant Elliott, Fakhar Zaman, James Franklin, Ghulam Mudassar, Chris Green, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, Saif Badar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal (wk), Usman Qadir, Yasir Shah, Zafar Gohar

Time: 17:00 IST| 15:30 GMT