Gap closing

The difference between the top and bottom sides is narrowing in the PSL. K Shahid reports from Sharjah and Dubai

Gap closing
This piece is being written after Quetta Gladiators’ first innings against Lahore Qalandars on Wednesday. Qalandars should race through the 107 target that they’ve been set, and if they manage to do it in good time they can cash in on a better net run rate as well.

Qalandars’ clash with Gladiators is between the least successful side in the three PSL seasons and one of the more successful ones. While Quetta are yet to win the PSL title, they’ve been runners-up twice and have traditionally done well in the group stages. Once again they’ve been the team to beat in the pool stages of PSL 4.

On Tuesday, the matchup between Multan Sultans and Islamabad United was similarly between a newbie and the two-time PSL champions. Sultans overcame United in similar fashion to what Qalandars are looking to do against Gladiators.
Gladiators looked like the team to beat in the first half of the group stages, while defending champions United haven’t been convincing

Sultans started Tuesday’s match at the bottom and jumped to the fourth spot, and the last playoff position, with a win. Qalandars will return to the top four and will be only two points behind top ranked Gladiators should they win Wednesday’s match.

As things stand on Wednesday, bottom-placed Karachi Kings are the only side to have beaten top ranked Gladiators. If the Kings beat United in the second match on Wednesday, they can return to the top four and put Islamabad, the most successful PSL franchise so far, under threat of missing out on the playoffs altogether.

This is how closely contested the ongoing PSL is. The gap between the top sides and the bottom ones is gradually narrowing, which could set up an enthralling finish to the group stages.

There are of course two separate playoff races that go on in the PSL. The first is to finish in the top two and play the first qualifier, which is between teams that finish 1 and 2, the winner directly qualifying for the PSL final. The second is to finish in the top four, with teams ranking three and four having to win two successive eliminators to qualify for the final. There are obvious benefits of finishing in the top two as the sides get two bites of the cherry in the playoffs.

Colin Ingram

After winning the first four matches Gladiators looked set for one of the top two slots, if not the top. If they do lose to Qalandars, they’d be back in the mix with all six sides truly in with a chance to finish just about anywhere on the table.

Just like Gladiators, Peshawar Zalmi have been doing well in the group stages so far, as they traditionally do. Zalmi’s bowling has been top-drawer, spearheaded by Hasan Ali, but their batting remains a concern. Especially Kamran Akmal up top, who has been their go-to batsman in the first three PSL seasons.

Shadab Khan

Among the successful franchises, defending champions United have looked the least convincing. Outside of Luke Ronchi, none of their batsmen has been convincing so far. The bowling has been a bit hit-and-miss as well, with Vice Captain and stand-in captain for a couple of matches Shadab Khan being especially disappointing. But United tend to peak with playoffs approaching, and would be hoping to do the same.

A close finish to the group stages bodes well for the last few pool matches in the PSL, which will be played in Karachi and Lahore. In addition to the final and the three playoffs, four pool matches will be played in Karachi and Lahore as well. As things stand, those four matches look like they’ll be decisive for the overall competition as well.