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The Multan Sultans have started their Pakistan Super League stint with two comprehensive victories and made it clear they will be contenders this season. They are sitting on top of the table at this early stage and will be keen to build on that momentum going forward. Their opponents are Islamabad United, who suffered a heavy defeat against Peshawar Zalmi in their opening encounter and will be required to turn their fortunes around in a hurry.
The strategy of going with experience in the draft seems to have paid off big time for the Multan Sultans. Kumar Sangakkara has been in imperious form and is the highest scorer of the tournament at the moment. Two fifties from two matches have helped provide the Multan Sultans the kind of start they have needed to win both their matches.
Kumar Sangakkara is actually helping mask the poor form the Ahmed Shahzad has displayed so far. Shahzad scored a 38 with some attractive boundaries but typically struggled to rotate the ball for most of his inning. As a result, his strike rate never seems to go beyond the 100-120 mark, something that is just not enough while batting at the top of the order.
The Multan Sultans have so far opted to play Sohaib Maqsood at number 3 and Darren Bravo 6 but we think there may be some merit in changing that around. Bravo is classy left-hander that can get some boundaries while the field restrictions are in place but may struggle to play the power game later on.
The decision to play Shoaib Malik and Kieron Pollard at 4 and 5 respectively is something we wholeheartedly agree with. Malik has 90 runs from two games while Pollard has also shown some glimpses of his power game.
While the batting for the Multan Sultans is looking well set, their bowling is probably their stronger discipline. Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Imran Tahir, and the all-rounders are combining to form a very potent bowling attack.
The Multan Sultans are a very well-rounded unit that is flourishing right now. Most of its players are performing well and this sort of winning momentum can really build in a tournament like the PSL. The first-timers of this league are looking the strongest team right now.
Kumar Sangakkara, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo, S Tanvir, S Badar, Imran Tahir, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan.
A tough first match for Islamabad United against Peshawar Zalmi did not pan out how they would have expected. There were signs of rust in some players and the team looked like it still has a long way to go before they get the balance right.
Islamabad United’s batting looks to be a real concern to us. Luke Ronchi is a dangerous T20 player but is just too inconsistent for our liking. He will come good in one or two innings and then play on potential for the rest of the time.
Chadwick Walton too is a player that seems to be playing a little above his station right now. He has a few good T20 inning but his overall career has been one of underachievement. The crucial positions of 3, 4, and 5 also called the engine room, is currently being occupied by Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Hussain Talat. They are hardly a trio to give the opposition bowlers nightmares.
It was perplexing to see Andre Russel to walk in at number 8 when the match was all but over. He has the reputation of someone who can smack the big sixes but he also needs some time to get his eye in.
We believe that Islamabad United can utilize Andre Russell much better if they play him at number 4 or 5 regularly. Were it not for Faheem Ashraf, the margin of defeat that Islamabad United suffered would have been much more.
The bowling for Islamabad United is also a little sketchy. They have two excellent T20 spinners in Shadab Khan and Samit Patel but they are also playing against players that are brought up predominantly on slow bowling.
Andre Russell is returning from injury and will definitely require some time to return to his best. The real thrust has to come from Mohammad Sami, Faheem Ashraf, and Rumman Raees. Of these three, though, Sami is getting a little long in the tooth and the other two are prone to be expensive under pressure.
Can Islamabad United rely on this bowling attack to put the opposition under pressure even if they do not have enough runs on the board? We think they will find it difficult.
A lot of things need to go right for Islamabad United to win matches consistently and even though they have some dangerous players that can put in brilliant individual performances, their team is lacking the balance that some of the other franchises have.
Luke Ronchi, CAK Walton, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Sahibzada Farhan, Shadab Khan, Andre Russell, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Sami, Rumman Raees, ST Finn.
Some amount of rain has been forecast during the day in Dubai and that could cause an interruption or two during the match. We hope that that the rain will come on either side of the cricket, though, and allow a full game to be played out.
The pitch at Dubai has held up well so far even though it is being used every single day. The bounce has been good and the batsmen have been able to play their shots after getting set. Bowlers that bowl cutters and change their pace up will be the ones that are most effective.
The Multan Sultans have won with two wins and they clearly have momentum with them right now. Islamabad United is not one of the favored team this season and we think they are likely to lose their second game in a row.