Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Sarfraz Ahmed shines as Kamran Akmal struggles: PSL 2019 halfway report

Pakistan Super League enters the business end when the top four sides advance to the knockout stage to be played in Lahore and Karachi

Sarfraz Ahmed has averaged 104 with the bat so far this Pakistan Super League season. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Sarfraz Ahmed has averaged 104 with the bat so far this Pakistan Super League season. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The HBL Pakistan Super League has reached the halfway stage, with Quetta Gladiators in pole position in the pursuit of the playoff places.

The top four sides will advance to the knockout stage of the competition, which will be played in Lahore and Karachi. Which players need to up their game if they are going to help their sides make it?

1. Quetta Gladiators

Top of the class: Sarfraz Ahmed

The batting average of the captain of the league leaders has soared to 104. He provided one of the competition’s lasting memories, too, when he hit the last ball of the match against Lahore in Sharjah for six – albeit with a big slice of fortune when he somehow survived being given out twice off the first ball he faced.

Must do better: Ghulam Mudassar

The 19-year-old left-arm quick has been an ever-present in the side as the mandatory emerging player pick in the XI. But his returns have been mixed at best, with an unenviable economy rate of 9.1 runs per over so far.

2. Peshawar Zalmi

Top of the class: Hasan Ali

The most wickets yet managed by a bowler in a single PSL season were the matching hauls of 18 by Faheem Ashraf and Wahab Riaz last time out. Hasan will obliterate that record if he carries on at his current rate. He has 15 in five matches, including three four-wicket hauls, and has been the standout player in the tournament to date.

Must do better: Kamran Akmal

He started the season as the leading run-getter in the PSL’s three-year history, with a haul of 929. It is a marker of his struggles this time around that, five matches in to the new campaign, he has still yet to breach the 1,000-run barrier. “He is a very, very good player, and he will come good,” teammate Liam Dawson said.

3. Islamabad United

Top of the class: Faheem Ashraf

Even during the brief lean run the holders suffered, no-one carried the fight to the opposition more than paceman Ashraf. He has seven wickets, and the best economy rate among Islamabad’s bowlers, too.

Must do better: Mohammed Sami

Dean Jones, the coach, was quick to defend the new captain against brickbats. The fact he has been pressed to do so suggests the quick bowler could do more himself to keep the critics at bay. Taking a hat-trick, as he did in the win against Peshawar, was a good way to start.

4. Lahore Qalandars

Top of the class: Haris Rauf

Arrived with a reputation based on little more than hot air – but has proven the hype to be perfectly justified with a string of eye-catching displays. None more so than when he won the game against Karachi with four wickets and some high-quality pace bowling at the death.

Must do better: The medical department

More a case of hoping they get a little luck, rather than a criticism of their injury-prevention team, per se. Last year they lost Chris Lynn on the eve of the competition. This time around, new captain Mohammed Hafeez was showing signs of shaping the side together when he succumbed to a thumb injury. Now they are sweating on a back injury to AB de Villiers.

5. Karachi Kings

Top of the class: Colin Ingram

Even-mannered off the field and consistent on it, the South African is often viewed as a safe pair of hands by recruiters on the global T20 circuit. He has shown here that he can do a good line in spectacular, too, by notching the highest ever PSL score, 127 not out in 59 balls, to shock Quetta in Sharjah.

Must do better: Aaron Summers

Based only on his absence sheet, which is hardly his fault. The Australian rookie has yet to play. Which means we have been awaiting with eager anticipation a first glimpse of a fast bowler who could rank among the fastest anywhere.

6. Multan Sultans

Top of the class: Shoaib Malik

The PSL has not always brought out the best in Shoaib Malik’s captaincy. He was enlisted for the role at Karachi Kings in the first season, but did not even last till the end of the league phase as he resigned. Multan might be struggling now, but their leader could hardly have done much more. He has the most runs and the best average of any of their batsmen.

Must do better: Hammad Azam

The 27-year-old batsman, who has a handful of international caps for Pakistan, might be struggling to force his way back into the XI, so meagre has his form been with the bat. Just 28 runs, an average of 9.33, and a duck last time out, could me a spell on the sidelines.

Updated: February 25, 2019 03:01 PM

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