Lahore the team to beat
The Pakistan Super League is on. It has been postponed, delayed twice but we finally (continued negative Covid tests depending) get some action on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi with the remaining 21 matches crammed into 14 days. There will be six double headers.
And what a bonus it is for a fine tournament and the wonderful Pakistani public. The PSL, packed with artistry and skill in the bowling ranks, should really rank above the Indian Premier League in terms of quality and entertainment. Sure, it doesn’t boast the glitz or the money but it sticks up two fingers to the cricketing establishment and a western hegemony which prefers to decry and stifle.
Betfair Sportsbook, who have postponed betting intermittently, are live again with an outright. They make the Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars the 3/1 joint favourites followed by Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United at 7/2, Multan Sultans at 6/1 and Quetta Gladiators at 9/1.
As discussed in our team-by-team guide there is value all over the shop. Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore (in that order) are all on the same numbers of points (six) and are split only by run rate. However, Islamabad and Lahore both have a game in hand. They meet in the tournament opener with the winner taking an immediate and significant cut to favourite status.
Lahore, who have been boosted by the return of Rashid Khan (he was injured in the first tournament stage and was not expected to return because of the pandemic) will go off at a skinny 1.705/7 to beat United. And unlike some of their rivals the double re-draft of players has left them looking as strong as ever. Indeed, it is possible they are stronger than before thanks to the additions of Callum Ferguson and James Faulkner.
Faulkner, in particular, will add bowling nous to a group which already consists Rashid, Haris Rauf and the tournament top wicket-taker Shaheen Shah Afridi. Rungetting is taken care of by domestic trio Fakhar Zaman, Sohail Khan and Mohammad Hafeez.
Although Lahore look like the strongest unit, it might pay to be cannier with our wagers. Our strength of feeling for Lahore is trumped by a an urge to take on the Kings, the title holders.
Karachi have suffered horribly in terms of recruitment following postponement. Their entire middle order has gone, losing Joe Clarke, Mohammad Nabi and Dan Christian. They also lost Colin Ingram. And they haven’t been clever enough in replacing them. Rather, panic seems to have set in.
Instead of attempting like-for-like they have picked up opening batsman Martin Guptill and Chadwick Walton, who is switching from a specialist opener to a middle-order player. It’s bonkers really because in Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan they have the most dynamic opening pair in the tournament. Kings are the top-ranked side for run rate.
So to fit in a player like Guptill they are either going to have to bat him out of position at No 3 or split up Babar and Sharjeel. Then there’s the issue with their bowling which was ranked at No 4 for economy at an eyewatering nine. New addition Thisara Perera will at least slot in well with that number; the all-rounder has conceded at least nine an over in four of his last seven years in franchise cricket.
It is also important to note that the true strengths and weaknesses of Kings - or any team for that matter - has been skewed by the outrageous toss bias at the National Stadium in Karachi where the chaser dominated. At the Sheikh Zayed Stadium we expect the team batting second to hold sway as the tournament progresses but it should be a much fairer fight early on. In Karachi if you lost the toss you lost the game.
That is why Quetta and Multan are struggling. All four of Quetta’s losses were due to batting first while the same was true for three of Multan’s four defeats.
Does that make them value on the outright then? Perhaps but both are going to have to win a minimum of three of their last five to stand any sort of chance and then it would come down to run rate. They would also only squeeze into fourth position, meaning a hat-trick of wins would be required in the knockouts. That sort of winning sequence could be beyond them.
On the exchange bigger numbers are available. Quetta are 16.015/1 and Multan 10.09/1. That Quetta price is the most interesting of the two because they may shorten only close to Multan’s price with qualification. Karachi are available to back at 3.953/1 and in anticipation of the market picking up it might be worth placing a lay of 4.507/2.
PSL match previews on Cricket…Only Bettor