LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to host three Pakistan Super League (PSL-3) games in the country, which include two eliminators in Lahore and the final in Karachi, to be held in the end of March next year.

All the league games will either be played in Dubai or Sharjah while the qualifier will be played in Dubai. A total of 24 matches will be played across different venues in Dubai, Sharjah, Lahore and Karachi. The final is to be held in Karachi onMarch 25. The tournament will commence on February 22 with Peshawar Zalmi taking on new entrants Multan Sultans.

"The PSL-3 will kick start with a glittering opening ceremony at the Dubai International Stadium followed by a star-studded Peshawar Zalmi taking on league debutants Multan Sultans, on 22nd Feb," the PCB said in a release.

"The teams will play twice against each other before the top four teams qualify for the play-off stage. Fans will get a chance to see their favourite stars in a total of 34 games played across four venues. Efforts are underway to stage two playoff games in Lahore followed by what would be a historic PSL final in Karachi," the statement said.

PCB Chairman Najam Sethi hoped that the fans will turn up in huge numbers for the tournament. "Pakistan Super League has grown to become a great platform for us to showcase Pakistani cricketing talent across the world. I am confident that fans will come to the stadiums in great numbers and that they will tune into our high-quality HBL PSL broadcast on TV and digital platforms."

PSL franchise Islamabad United owner Ali Naqvi said he was excited about the final being held in Karachi. “It is important to take matches beyond Lahore. We have to go step by step, and we are headed in the right direction." Islamabad United captain Misbah ul Haq said: “My prime job is to nurture the emerging category players and I think Farhan, Hussain and Husnain have some really exciting talent I can work with."

The format remains the same - all teams playing each other twice before the top four progress to qualifiers and eliminators. As before, the bulk of the games will be played in the UAE, between Sharjah and Dubai. There had been talk of using Abu Dhabi as a venue, more so after the Zayed Cricket Stadium hosted two T20s and ODIs against Sri Lanka earlier this season, but the city will miss out once again on the PSL.

All eyes, however, will be on Karachi, as it attempts to host its biggest match since it last held an international - a Test against Sri Lanka in February 2009. That was the last completed Test in Pakistan, before the attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore. There has been persistent chatter about the National Stadium in Karachi not being ready in time to host the game, though last month, the PCB chairman Najam Sethi said, "We have made a commitment to try our best to have it in Karachi."

In October, Reg Dickason, the security expert who advises the ICC and works with FICA, visited Karachi and met with senior security and government officials, the first step in assessing whether or not the city is ready to host high-profile games. West Indies are also scheduled to tour Pakistan in March next year for a three-match T20 series, though venues for that commitment have not yet been confirmed.

Last year, the PSL-2 final was held here at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium amid tight security. It was the second time Pakistan hosted an international series since militants attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009. Since the success of the PSL 2017 final, Pakistan has hosted a Twenty20 series against the World XI here at the Gaddafi Stadium .