LAHORE: Lahore Qalandars will face high-flying defence Multan Sultans in the tournament’s high-octane climax today (Sunday) at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
The Qalandars, coached by Shaheen Shah Afridi, are the only side in the six-team league that has not won the championship since the Pakistan Super League began in 2016.
The last time Qalandars competed in a final was in 2020, when they lost to Karachi Kings.
However, Qalandars face a formidable Sultan team that won nine of their 10 first round matches, while Qalandars have won seven of their last twelve matches. Sultans lead Qalandars 2-1 in this tournament’s head-to-head matchups.
Qalandars were the only club to upset them in the first round, but Sultans avenged that loss by thrashing them by 28 runs in Wednesday’s qualifiers.
Shaheen, whose side edged Islamabad United by six runs in a last-over drama in Friday’s second eliminator, pledged his squad would not accept anything less than victory.
The Sultans and Qalandars have wowed spectators in Karachi and Lahore with top-notch T20 cricket. From the start of the PSL 7 in Karachi a month ago, Sultans had performed like winners.
The Mohammad Rizwan-led Sultans advanced to their second consecutive final with a 28-run victory over Qalandars in Wednesday’s Qualifier match, while Qalandars advanced to their second final in three years with a thrilling victory over Islamabad United on Friday evening, which undoubtedly warmed the hearts of their massive Lahore fan base.
“After Friday night’s amazing victory, we want nothing more than the PSL trophy,” Shaheen Shah said.
The Sultans are inspirationally led by Mohammad Rizwan, who was just named the International Cricket Council’s Twenty20 international player of the year 2021, while the Qalandars are led by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was recently named the ICC’s best cricketer of the year 2021.
Rizwan hoped his team could repeat their victory from last year’s final in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s been a wonderful tournament for us, and as captain, I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my teammates,” Rizwan said.
Both sides are batting and bowling heavyweights.
Fakhar Zaman leads the Qalandars with 585 league runs at a strike rate of 154.35.
Sultan’s leading run scorer is Rizwan, who has 532 runs, while his opening partner Shan Masood has 459.
Tim David, a Western Australian, and Rilee Rossouw, a former South African, are also strong hitters for the Sultans.
Imran Tahir, a Lahore-born former South African, Shahnawaz Dahani, and Khushdil Shah, all of whom have 16 wickets in the competition, lead their assault.
Shaheen leads the Qalandars attack with 17 wickets, followed by debutant Zaman Khan (16) and Pakistan international Haris Rauf (15).
Khushdil Shah, the Sultans’ all-rounder, has remained the tournament’s surprise package with the ball. The left-arm spinner has grabbed key wickets for his team on several occasions, amassing 16 wickets in 11 games with a strike rate of 12.31 and an economy rate of 6.71.
Imran Tahir and Shahnawaz Dahani, the PSL 2021’s best bowlers, have also taken 16 wickets apiece at a strike rate of 17.25 and 18.87.
Zaman Khan, the Qalandars’ developing choice, has been one of the tournament’s standout performers, taking 16 wickets in 12 appearances at a strike rate of 22.56
Both past champions — Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators — were eliminated in the first round of this tournament.