LAHORE-All eyes will be on Karachi’s National Stadium as the much-awaited Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 playoffs get underway today (Saturday) afternoon with the table-toppers Multan Sultans taking on Karachi Kings in the Qualifier. 

The tournament returns to action after an eight-month gap, as it was postponed on March 17 due to Covid-19 pandemic. Until then, cricket fans, both in Pakistan and across the world, had remained glued to the riveting T20 action that saw some nail-biters with the fight for the four playoff spots going down to the wire. The 2017 champions Peshawar Zalmi edged past defending champions Quetta Gladiators on net run-rate to sneak through to the playoffs by grabbing the fourth spot, while Islamabad United, the two-time champions, finished their campaign on the last spot on the table. 

Today (Saturday), the winner of the Qualifier will confirm a berth in the much-anticipated final, to be played on November 17, while the losing team will await the winner of the Eliminator 1 – to be played between Qalandars and Zalmi – in the Eliminator 2, which is scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday) evening. The loser of the Qalandars-Zalmi game will be eliminated. All four squads in the playoffs have been rejigged with international and local stars joining the sides and all aiming to guide their franchises to glory. 

Multan Sultans topped the table at the end of the double-league round-robin group-stage by winning six matches. While two of their matches ended in no-result due to rain, they faced losses in the other two. Captain Shan Masood occupies the sixth spot in the list for the tournament’s highest run-getters with 253 runs at 31.62 and a strike-rate of 128.42. Among the bowlers, Sohail Tanvir and Imran Tahir occupy the fourth and fifth spot having taken 10 wickets each at 15.30 and 18.60 respectively. Shan is confident his team has the desired firepower to win the tournament. 

Imad Wasim-led Karachi Kings took the second spot by registering five wins out. They lost four matches and their one fixture was washed out. Kings possess one of the most exciting top-orders in the playoffs with Sharjeel Khan and Babar Azam joined by England’s Alex Hales. The recently appointed all-format Pakistan captain Babar heads the tournament run-getters list with 345 runs in nine innings at 49.28 with the help of three half-centuries. Among the bowlers, Muhammad Amir is placed at number six with 10 wickets in nine matches at 26.20. Kings captain Imad Wasim is eager to give out his best to win the title. 

Third-placed Lahore Qalandars will be playing Eliminator 1 – a knockout affair – against Zalmi today’s evening. Qalandars roared back in contention after a poor start to the tournament with some exhilarating performances led by the Australia duo of Ben Dunk and Chris Lynn. They finished the group-stage with five wins in 10 games. While Lynn is unavailable for the playoffs, Qalandars still have Dunk who is expected to be joined by Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal in the team’s top-order. 

Dunk occupies the third-spot in the batting charts having scored 266 runs at 53.20 at a stunning strike-rate of 186.01. Dunk’s 23 sixes are the most so far by any batsman in the tournament. The leading wicket-taker in the T20 format in 2020, Shaheen Shah Afridi will breathe fire to the Qalandars attack in the playoffs. In the group-stage, the left-armer took 13 wickets in nine matches at 18.92. Lahore Qalandars captain Sohail Akhtar has firm belief in the talent and ability of his players, who really want to win this tournament. 

Peshawar Zalmi sneaked through to the playoffs despite a difficult run in the group stage where they won four out of their 10 matches but maintained a net run-rate that was good enough for them to edge past Quetta Gladiators. The most prolific batsman in PSL history, Kamran Akmal, with 1,537 runs, is currently placed at the seventh-spot in the batting charts for the 2020 edition with 251 runs at 27.88 and a strike-rate of 161.93. 

Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz, with 11 wickets in nine matches, is placed at No 3 in the chart for the highest wicket-takers. He has taken his wickets at 23.18. The captain is ready to take on rest of the sides and keen to do well and win the tournament.