Islamabad United, the winners of the first edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) will look for a winning start to the third edition of the league as they take on title holders Peshawar Zalmi in the first of a doubleheader in Dubai on Saturday.
Led by now-retired Misbah-ul-Haq, the United are a formidable combination and bolstered by the return of West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell who missed the last edition due to a doping ban on violating the whereabouts clause.
Russell was the best bowler in the inaugural edition of the PSL with 16 wickets and besides his bowling, his team will also look for his slog over batting which has made Russell the toast of Twenty20 leagues around the world.
Islamabad United also have a balanced squad with Pakistani allrounder Faheem Ashraf, knocking-at-the-doors allrounder Hussain Talat and opener Sahibzada Farhan in their mix. They also have the emerging star Shadab Khan in their ranks, who has been rated high as an all-round cricketer by the cricket experts around the globe. New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi, West Indian Samuel Badree and England’s Steven Finn provide the firepower in both the departments.
Old fox Mohammad Sami and fast-rising Twenty20 expert Rumman Raees will shoulder the pace attack and both have done well in the past editions of the PSL.
Zalmi, who won the title beating Quetta Gladiators in the final in Lahore, last year had a disappointing start to this year’s tournament, going down to new entrants Multan Sultans by seven wickets. They are plagued by the absence of Shakib Al Hasan and Dwayne Bravo who both are ruled out of the PSL 3.
But their biggest worry is when they will have Hasan Ali in the line-up, the best bowler in their ranks who rose to new heights last year with the best bowler in ODIs tag. Hasan is recovering from an ankle injury and it is feared he will miss the first four games.
Zalmi will also hope their openers Kamran Akmal and Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal fire after failing in the first game. Kamran, who hit 150 in National Twenty20 and 200 not out in the departmental one-day cup, fell for nought and Tamim was dismissed for 11.
Mohammad Hafeez did show some good form with a 52-ball 59 but questions on whether he can bowl in the tournament or not are still unanswered.
Zalmi’s management is hopeful they will recover after losing the first game, a tradition they overcame in last year’s PSL and went on to win the title.