Lahore Qalandars are set to take on high-flying defenders Multan Sultans, seeking the elusive Pakistan Super League title in the highly charged finale of the tournament to be played today (Sunday) at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
The Shaheen Shah Afridi-led Qalandars are the only team in the six-team league who have not won the competition title since the Pakistan Super League started in 2016.
Last time Qalandars lost to Karachi Kings in the only final they played in 2020.
But the task for Qalandars is tough as they face a rampaging Sultan side that won nine of their ten first round matches while Qalandars have won seven out of 12 matches this year. On a head-to-head in this tournament, Sultans lead Qalandars 2-1.
Qalandars were the only side to beat them in the first round but Sultans avenged that defeat by trouncing them in the qualifiers by 28 runs on Wednesday.
Shaheen, whose side edged out Islamabad United by six runs in a last-over thriller in the second eliminator on Friday, vowed his team will not settle for anything less than winning the trophy.
Sultans and Qalandars have richly entertained the fans in Karachi and Lahore with top quality T20 cricket. Sultans have played like champions from the beginning of the PSL 7 in Karachi a month ago.
The Mohammad Rizwan-led Sultans reached their second successive final with a 28-run win over Qalandars in the Qualifier match on Wednesday, while Qalandars reached their second final in three years after a thrilling victory against Islamabad United on Friday evening, which undoubtedly has warmed the hearts of their huge Lahore fan base.
”After Friday night’s incredible win we want to settle for nothing but the PSL trophy,” said Shaheen.
Sultans are led inspirationally by Mohammad Rizwan, declared Twenty20 international player of the 2021 by the International Cricket Council last month while Qalandars are led best fast bowler by Shaheen Shah Afridi, declared best cricketer of the year 2021 by the ICC last month.
Rizwan hoped his team can repeat their last year’s triumph in the final held in Abu Dhabi.
“It has been an amazing tournament for us and I, as captain, could not have asked more from my players,” said Rizwan.
Both the teams are power-packed in batting as well as in bowling.
Qalandars have Fakhar Zaman as opener who has so far scored a league record of 585 at a strike rate of 154.35.
Rizwan is Sultan’s top run-getter with 532 runs while his opening partner Shan Masood has 459.
Sultans also have power hitters in Western Australian Tim David and former South African Rilee Rossouw.
Their attack has Lahore born former South African Imran Tahir, Shahnawaz Dahani and Khushdil Shah who all have 16 wickets in the tournament.
Shaheen is the spearhead of Qalandars’ attack with 17 wickets while newcomer slinger Zaman Khan (16) and Pakistan international Haris Rauf has 15 wickets.
Sultans’ all-rounder Khushdil Shah has remained the surprise package with the ball in the tournament. The left-arm-spinner has time and again taken crucial wickets for his side and has collected 16 wickets in 11 games at 12.31 and an economy rate of 6.71.
Imran Tahir and Shahnawaz Dahani, best bowler of PSL 2021, have also taken 16 wickets each at 17.25 and 18.87 respectively.
Qalandars’ emerging pick Zaman Khan has been one of the finds of the tournament, the right-arm fast has collected 16 wickets in 12 outings at 22.56.
Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators — both former champions — bowed out in the first round in this edition.