The top two teams of the competition face off later tonight at Sharjah in an attempt to claim or hold onto pole position (whichever way you look at it). Thanks to some key inclusions, Islamabad are growing in stature and could almost runaway with the competition from here, but strange things tend to happen in the playoffs.
Two top teams battling for first place, this should be an entertaining contest! It shapes up to be an interesting encounter, because despite Islamabad United maintaining their five-match winning streak, their last loss happened to be against the Quetta Gladiators who edged them out by 6 wickets. Only this time, both sides have added two-English T20 specialists to their line-ups which adds its own little rivalry to the already-enthralling contest. Yep, Jason Roy for Quetta and Alex Hales for Islamabad will be going head-to-head at the top of their respective batting orders as they compete to contribute the most runs for the night, but at the end of the day it’s the team who comes out on top with the bragging rights. A winning-streak such as Islamabad’s can be seen as a momentous mountain to climb as an opposition team, but at the same time knowing that this purple patch of form has to end at some stage…doesn’t it?
When you’re up against a team that appears to be untouchable at the moment, a loss against the bottom side certainly does you no favours heading into such a crucial game. It’s unfortunate for the Gladiators, because they were toppled over by the bottom-placed Qalandars in what would have been an epic run chase if Quetta were to reach their target of 187. Falling short and losing a bit of confidence, the Gladiators must quickly move onto the task at hand, and that’s bringing down the PSL’s No. 1 team in the comp this year. It’s unlikely the match is going to be won through their bowling in this specific clash, they just don’t have the bowlers who can damage sides like Karachi or Multan. On the other hand, going head-to-head with Islamabad’s batting line-up is a challenging prospect given the type of form some of their key players are in at the top of the order. Form is one thing, but Quetta do have the big names as well who are renown for winning games of their own willow. Jason Roy is as unpredictable as they get, but his ability to find the boundary (and more often than not the stands) is destructive, but his early exits can be fatal to his own side. South Africa’s Rilee Rossouw is in good hitting form in the Gladiators middle order, and veterans Shane Watson and Kevin Pietersen have played some trademark knocks in the tournament so far as well. If those guys can step up, they’re a big chance of pulling off an upset in Sharjah. With no-real strike bowler in the team who can inflict a batting collapse, the Gladiators bowling unit will have to work hard as well as the fielders who must restrict Islamabad’s innings.
The word “unstoppable” comes to mind when Islamabad United are brought up in a conversation, it may not be entirely factual but they’ve certainly stamped their authority in this years PSL. Especially in their last five games of the tournament, we’re approaching the business end of the tournament where every team is trying to assert themselves in that top echelon of sides, and Islamabad has done just that. The Gladiators non-existent bowling attack could gift them their sixth-consecutive victory which would be some sort of accomplishment, but they can’t afford to go out and expect it to come easy. Wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi has been phenomenal for Islamabad in 2018, particularly over the past two weeks. Ronchi has been a big part of Islamabad’s lengthy-success in this period, scoring 233 runs in his past four innings averaging 58.25. The former Black Caps keeper isn’t the only one, South Africa’s JP Duminy has been a key inclusion since his addition to the squad. The all-rounder notched up his highest score of the tournament so far just recently against Peshawar with an unbeaten-73, not to mention his other contributions in his six PSL outings in 2018. The inclusion of England’s Alex Hales adds further-batting depth as the 29-year-old didn’t disappoint on debut, smashing his way to 46 against the Sultans just recently. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq has barely-been required which is a clear indication of the talent on display at the top for Islamabad United. If they somehow manage to lose the battle against Quetta with the bat, they’re more than capable with the ball. Former English spinner Samit Patel has been just what team management would have hoped for, claiming 10 wickets in his six outings including some really effective spells against Lahore, Peshawar & Multan. If that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, Mohammad Sami, Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan make up the rest of the attack.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Quetta Gladiators | PSL | 28th match | Sharjah
- Jason Roy
- Rilee Rossouw
- Shane Watson
- Mohammad Nawaz
- Anwar Ali
Wildcard pick – Mir Hamza
Top 5 fantasy picks | Islamabad United | PSL | 28th match | Sharjah
- Luke Ronchi
- JP Duminy
- Faheem Ashraf
- Shadab Khan
- Hussain Talat
Wildcard pick – Alex Hales
Quetta Gladiators (possible) – 1. Jason Roy 2. Shane Watson 3. Kevin Pietersen 4. Rameez Raja/Umar Amin/Asad Shafiq 5. Rilee Rossouw 6. Mohammad Nawaz 7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk) 8. Anwar Ali 9. Hasan Khan 10. Rahat Ali 11. Mir Hamza.
Islamabad United (possible) – 1. Luke Ronchi (wk) 2. JP Duminy 3. Alex Hales 4. Hussain Talat 5. Asif Ali 6. Faheem Ashraf 7. Misbah-ul-Haq © 8. Samit Patel 9. Shadab Khan 10. Amad Butt 11. Mohammad Sami.