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The Karachi Kings have started their PSL 2018 season with an absolute bang and won both their matches so far. Their opponents for this match, the Lahore Qalandars, are at the opposite end of the spectrum having lost both their matches. The presence of Shahid Afridi seems to have supercharged the Karachi lineup and they will want to convert that early momentum into something much more significant.
Two blistering performances with the ball have set the Karachi Kings on their way this season. Their bowling lineup is currently the best in the league and there is just no respite for the opposition batsmen. There was a slight scare for the Karachi Kings in the last match as Mohammad Amir only bowled two overs.
Apparently, the team management had suspected a side strain and so opted to rest him rather than risk him further. As things stand, Mohammad Amir may or not play this match but should be fit for the tournament going forward.
Out of the five regular bowlers that the Karachi Kings have played this season, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, and Shahid Afridi have an economy rate of 5.63 or lesser. Tymal Mill and Mohammad Irfan are also performing well making it very difficult for opposition batsmen to target any one bowler.
Imad Wasim has been very good up front while the presence of Shahid Afridi has allowed Karachi to take wickets in the crucial middle overs.
The Karachi Kings batsmen have not had much to do in the tournament so far. Colin Ingram with 64 runs to his name is the current highest scorer of the squad. Enough glimpses have been seen from the other batsmen to suggest that the Karachi Kings will be able to compete with the bat as and when needed.
Colin Ingram, Ravi Bopara, Joe Denly, and Babar Azam are all top-class performers. The likes of Shahid Afridi, Imad Wasim, and Khurram Manzoor are also very good with the bat as well.
Karachi has always been ridiculed for not being able to turn potential on the paper to performances on the park but it looks like they may have finally cracked the code this time around.
Khurram Manzoor, Joe Denly, Babar Azam, Colin Ingram, RS Bopara, Mohammad Rizwan, SI Wasim, SMSK Afridi, TS Mills, UK Khan, Mohammad Irfan.
The first five overs of the Lahore Qalandars inning in their last match were absolutely brilliant. Brendon McCullum and Sunil Narine played aggressive cricket up front to rack up a score of close to 60. Regular wickets after the powerplay meant that Lahore was only able to add another 60 in the remaining 14 overs.
That is just unacceptable in T20 cricket and some harsh questions must be asked from the Lahore batting lineup. Fakhar Zaman, Umar Amal, and Cameron Delport are three international quality players that have to step up and take some pressure of Brendon McCullum.
With the kind of aggressive intent that McCullum bats with, he is bound to fail more often than not. He usually plays some fast, attractive, cameos that help set up the inning but will not be enough to win the match alone.
Sunil Narine is the highest scorer of the team with 54 runs from two matches. No batsman has scored a fifty in the tournament so far, and the tendency to lose wickets in clusters is really hurting Lahore.
One positive to focus on is the strike rate of their top-order batsmen. Sunil Narine, Fakhar Zaman, and Brendon McCummul all have an excellent strike rate and that should translate into a big score provided they are able to stay at the wicket for long enough.
Lahore Qalandars need runs to get their tournament back on track because their bowlers are also struggling at the moment. Sunil Narine has uncharacteristically gone for plenty of runs in both the matches. Yasir Shah has struggled to pick wickets. Shaheen Shah Afridi has found the step up from under-19 cricket to be pretty steep and Raza Hasan has been ineffective as well.
Only Mustafizur Rahman has been able to assert some level of control.
The names in this bowling unit are pretty well-respected and it is strange to see them out of form at the same time. Sunil Narine may have lost some of his zing after remodeling his action but he continues to be one of the most valued T20 players in the world.
If he, Yasir Shah, and Mustafizur Rahman do not start firing, then the Lahore Qalandars are in for a world of hurt.
Brendon McCullum, SP Narine, F Zaman, Umar Akmal, Sohail Akhtar, Denesh Ramdin, Agha Salman, Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mustafizur Rahman.
The pitch at Dubai has started to slow up considerably over the last few days and we think this will only continue to worsen. The slow pitch will make strokeplay difficult but it will not necessarily help the bowlers either. Spinners like to see some spin or zip off the surface and the pacers like bounce. None of these will be on offer.
The weather is expected to be clear and temperatures will be slightly hotter than they were last week. Scores of 140-160 will be very competitive from here on in.
The Karachi Kings have beaten the Lahore Qalandars in three out of their last four matches. The boys from Karachi also have some solid winning momentum behind them and the force of nature, Shahid Afridi, in excellent form. We are going to stick with Karachi to maintain their winning streak and consign Lahore to their third defeat of the season.