The better half

K Shahid previews the second half of PSL 3

The better half
At the time of writing Wednesday’s clash was between table toppers Multan Sultans and fifth-placed Quetta Gladiators. By the time you read this, the positions might well have changed, especially since there are two further matches on Thursday.

Earlier on in the week, all teams had played each other once, making it five matches for everyone – meaning that the PSL was at exactly the halfway stage in the league matches. By Wednesday, the PSL was one match over the exact halfway stage with the second match ongoing.

And hence the league table at the halfway stage gives an idea of what each team needs to do to make the playoffs – or for those that are doing well, aim for the top two, which would mean playing the first playoff (the qualifier) for a direct route to the final.

Luke Ronchi and JP Duminy

Currently, the teams can be divided into three camps. The first includes the Sultans and the Karachi Kings, which have been alternating as table toppers, and have comfortably been the top two sides – both in terms of performance and the league standings.

Fittingly, the match between the two sides was rained off, meaning that each received a point each. The Sultans and the Kings are the frontrunners for the first two league slots.

The second group features Islamabad United, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators. These three have had a mixed first half of the league stage, and have already suffered their share of losses.

Islamabad United’s emphatic win over Kings (then table toppers) on Sunday, led by a Luke Ronchi blitz might have given them momentum, but all three teams have their issues.

Zalmi’s win over Gladiators, where an injured Darren Sammy smashed 16 off four balls was the highlight of the first half, but by Wednesday the defending champions had lost half of their six matches.

Imad Wasim

Quetta Gladiators, the finalists in both the PSL seasons so far, had lost three off their first five matches, heading into Wednesday’s showdown with the Sultans.

Again, these aren’t just problematic for both the finalists from last year – these losses epitomise the fact that both are no way near the form that they’ve showed in the first two seasons. And there’s a genuine chance that one of them could miss out on the playoffs.

The third of the aforementioned camps features Lahore Qalandars alone. Having lost each of their first five matches, the Qalandars now practically need to win all of their remaining matches to have any chance of qualifying for the playoffs. And given the manners in which they have lost their matches – pretty much every single way possible in the T20 format, including the super over – Lahore are shoo-in to miss out on the playoffs, a concern that had started reverberating after they lost their first couple of matches to go with the bottom placed finishes in both seasons so far.

Considering that it’s hard to see Lahore pull off the miracle, there are two primary sets of competition going on during the remaining league matches.

Darren Sammy leading the Zalmi

The first is to decide who would finish at the dreaded fifth slot and hence miss out on the playoffs altogether. The second is about who will finish top two and hence get the easier route to the final.

Barring a resurgence emblematic of Rochi’s innings against the Kings, Islamabad United should remain in the scuffle to avoid fifth, leaving the first for the top league slots between Karachi and Multan. Although of course a three-way fight for two slots would be great viewing for everyone.

The expected dogfight could be between United, Zalmi and Gladiators to avoid missing out on the playoffs. As things stand, the latter two, the finalists of the memorable PSL final in Lahore  are in danger of making that a two-horse race.

In any case, the better half of PSL 3 is still to follow.