Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United will lock horns in the hotly-anticipated season-opener of HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 at Karachi’s National Stadium on Thursday.
Quetta are the most successful side of the league, having been crowed champions last season and finished as runners-up in the inaugural edition of the league in 2016 and then in 2018.
Islamabad, meanwhile, are the two-time champions and the only side to make it into the playoffs stage of all previous four seasons. They emerged title winners in the opening season and then replicated the feat two years later, both under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq, who is now their head coach.
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Last season, they won five of their ten league games and were knocked out of the tournament by Peshawar Zalmi in the Eliminator.
Both Islamabad and Quetta look balanced outfits with a host of national and foreign players.
Sarfraz Ahmed-led Quetta suffered a massive blow early on the game day PCB’s anti-corruption unit suspended their flamboyant batsman Umar Akmal from all cricket-related activity. He has batsman by forgotten Pakistan all-rounder Anwar Ali in the lineup.
However, they yet boast a power-packed batting line, featuring the likes of Shane Watson, Ahmed Shehzad, Jason Roy, and Ben Cutting.
Their bowling departments look equally formidable in the presence of pace trio Mohammad Hasnain, Sohail Khan, and Naseem Shah. Mohammad Nawaz and Fawad Ahmed will perform spin duties.
Islamabad, being led by Pakistan spinner Shadab Khan, look a mightier force in the presence of power hitters like Colin Munro, Colin Ingram, Dawid Malan, and Luke Ronchi, who was their leading run-getter last season.
Pakistan internationals Hussian Talat and Asif Ali will also be itching to make a mark in the event. Amad Butt and Faheem Ashraf are the two prominent all-rounders in their line-up.
Quetta holds a slight edge over Islamabad in the head-to-head record with a win-loss tally of 5-4 after nine games.
Shadab Khan (Captain), Luke Ronchi (wicketkeeper), Colin Ingram, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Amad Butt, Faheem Ashraf, Muhammad Musa/Zafar Gohar, Rumman Raees, Colin Munro, Dawid Malan,
Shane Watson, Jason Roy, Ahmed Shehzad, Sarfaraz Ahmed (Captain and wicketkeeper), Ben Cutting, Mohammad Nawaz, Ahsan Ali/Khurram Manzoor, Fawad Ahmed, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah.