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After a long and eventful tussle lasting spanning across a month and thirty matches, we are finally into the playoffs in the Pakistan Super League - 2019. Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars were the only two teams to be knocked out and the competition still remains between Peshawar Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators, Karachi Kings, and Islamabad United. One of these teams will be eliminated on 14th March at Karachi where Islamabad United will take on Karachi Kings in the first eliminator of the tournament. Both teams are coming off a similar campaign in the league stage with five wins and as many losses each in ten matches and this upcoming encounter is expected to be a cracker of a contest as well.
One of the key reasons why Islamabad United have been consistent across all seasons in the PSL is the depth in their batting order. The likes of Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf can tonk the around right from the word go despite coming so down in the order.
Just as the last time, Luke Ronchi has played an instrumental role in their success so far. Lonchi is third on the list of tournament's top-scorers and will be looking to produce another impactful knock in the upcoming match. Besides Ronchi, Cameron Delport has played an important part for them and he will be itching to come out in the middle after that scintillating performance against Lahore Qalandars wherein he scored the fastest ever century in PSL.
With Alex Hales set to join them following the conclusion of England's tour of West Indies, their batting lineup is only strengthened. He is likely to replace Phillip Salt in the lineup.
Contrary to Karachi Kings, Islamabad United's bowling attack is a little light on wicket-taking ability with Faheem Ashraf being their only bowler who has bowled reliably throughout the tournament. There will be immense pressure on him to not only produce a decent performance himself but also guide the other young local bowlers to bowl in good areas. It will be a good test for their bowling attack and if they are able to complement their power-packed batting unit, it's going to be a nail-biting encounter.
Luke Ronchi, AD Hales, CAK Walton, C Delport, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Rumman Raees, Mohammad Sami, Muhammad Musa.
Karachi Kings had a sedate start to the competition but slowly picked up the pace as the tournament progressed and became the last team to secure a playoff spot with a climatic one-run win over the Gladiators. In their last match, however, the Kings were dealt with a heavy 61-run win by Darren Sammy's Peshawar Zalmi.
On paper, Karachi's batting lineup is second to none - perhaps the best in the tournament. Colin Ingram, Babar Azam, and Liam Livingstone are in the list of top-five run-scorers in this edition which speaks volumes about the performances by their batting unit. Having said that, their performances often haven't turned the match Karachi's way which will definitely be a cause of concern for the management.
The return of Usman Shinwari has certainly bolstered their bowling unit comprising of Mohammad Amir and Umer Khan. Umer Khan has impressed one and all and is fourth in the top wicket-takers chart for the season. Even though Imad Wasim hasn't been amongst the wickets, he has bowled with an impressive economy rate of under seven.
All in all, despite being one of the most formidable units in the tournament, consistency has been a key aspect where Kings have been found wanting. Both their batting and bowling have failed to secure points as far as producing consistent performances is concerned and if they manage to put their best foot forward in the upcoming contest, it's not going to be easy for the defending champions.
SI Wasim, Colin Ingram, Colin Munro, Babar Azam, Liam Livingstone, Ben Dunk, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Aamer Yamin, Usman Khan, Umer Khan.
Both the sides finished level in the points table as far as points are concerned, but Islamabad United looked more convincing through their journey in the tournament. However, Karachi Kings have improved with the every passing match and their big-name batting unit can destroy any bowling attack on their day. The Kings have underperformed thus far in the tournament, but the big games often come down to experience playing a huge role which is something the Kings are rich in. Karachi are playing at their home ground, in front of their home crowd, and with a better-balanced side as compared to the United, they are firm favorites to win the upcoming encounter and progress in the tournament.