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The highly awaited Pakistan Super League 2018 is about to begin and the first match will be played between the defending champions, Peshawar Zalmi, and the newbies to the league, Multan Sultans. It is very important for teams to get off to a quick start in this competition and build momentum because the matches will come thick and fast. While Peshawar will have to deal with the pressure of expectation, Multan will be hoping that they can start the tournament with a bang and make everyone else sit up and take notice.
The defending champions are also the most consistent team in the history of the PSL. Peshawar Zalmi ended up topping the league table in both the previous seasons and converted that into a title last year. They have also managed to keep 10 players from last year’s squad to ensure that they have some continuity in the team.
Peshawar has also picked up some players that will make their unit even stronger. The biggest plus for them will be the presence of a fit Dwayne Bravo. The West Indian all-rounder has just come back from a very successful Big Bash tournament where he was the highest wicket-taker. Bravo thrives in T20 cricket and is very effective on the slower wickets, the kinds he will encounter in this tournament.
A fully fit Peshawar Zalmi squad will have a fearsome bowling attack thanks to the presence of Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Dwayne Bravo, Shakib Al Hasan, and overs from Sammy, Haris Sohail, or Hafeez making up the difference.
There is some concern about Hasan Ali’s fitness and it seems that he will miss the first couple of matches. Zalmi will also need to think about potential replacements for Shakib and Tamim Iqbal when the time comes but that is not a concern for right now.
Hopefully, Mohammad Hafeez can improve his batting performance from last year when he struggled massively and Kamran Akmal can continue the form that saw him score more runs than anyone else in the competition.
Mohammad Asghar is also useful spin bowling option for Peshawar Zalmi and someone who we think is likely to play in most matches this season.
We like the look of this Peshawar Zalmi team but worry about the current form of some of their players. Darren Sammy’s leadership played a big role in their success last year and will have a lot of work to do this season as well.
Kamran Akmal, Tamim Iqbal, DR Smith, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Hammad Azam, DJG Sammy, Chris Jordan, Wahab Riaz, Ibtisam Sheikh, Mohammad Asghar.
While the Multan Sultans may be making their PSL debut in this match, they are not a team that is short on T20 experience. In fact, some of the world’s most experienced T20 players are going to be turning out for the franchise.
We actually like the look of this team and think someone has made some very astute picks. Kumar Sangakkara may not be playing international cricket anymore but he just had a great time in the HongKong T20 Blitz and is extremely capable of feasting on bowling attacks in this tournament.
The Multan Sultans also have Kieron Pollard, Thisara Perera, and Shoaib Malik in their team. All the three players are very capable all-rounders that can contribute in both facets of the game.
While Malik’s bowling has dropped off a bit in recent years, his batting remains very good. Kieron Pollard has played T20 cricket around the world and even though his current form is not too good, he warrants a place in the side because of the fear factor that he brings with him. Thisara Perera has also had a very productive series in Bangladesh and will want to continue that form in PSL 2018.
Imran Tahir returns to Pakistan as an international player to play for Multan and that has to be one of the most amazing stories in cricket history. While the international quality of the players cannot be doubted, it is the Pakistani players that will decide the eventual success of the team.
The Multan Sultans have Ahmed Shahzad, a player that does well domestically but underperforms on the international stage, and Shan Masood, a top-order batsman of immense promise that is looking to make a comeback into the Pakistani limited overs side.
Umar Gul is also in the squad as is Hardus Viljoen. It will be interesting to see who the team management decides to play in the opening match among the two, especially now that Hasan Ali is expected to not be fit.
We think the Multan Sultans have some very experienced players to bank on but they are currently outgunned in the batting department. Their team lacks power even with Kieron Pollard present in the playing eleven.
That could be a big problem for them going forward because it will leave their bowlers to have to compensate for them in most matches.
Kumar Sangakkara, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard, Sohaib Maqsood, S Badar, S Tanvir, Hardus Viljoen, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Imran Tahir.
Rain is almost never a problem in these parts and it looks like the temperature is going to be mild as well. Humidity will be a little high and that will make players uncomfortable but there is unlikely to be any interruption to the match.
The pitch in Dubai offers very little to the bowlers, fast or slow. The batsmen will be hoping for a little more bounce than last time to help them with their strokeplay. We think scores in the region of 160 will be competitive as the teams try and learn more about the surfaces in the first few games.
We think that the Peshawar Zalmi team is a more cohesive unit, a better bowling attack, and better hitting power through their ranks. They are the favorites to win this match.