The success of the previous two seasons and appreciation received from fans worldwide, brought about fantastic and thrilling Pakistan Super League 2018.
Transitioning to the third season: PSL 2018
Pakistan Super League was initiated by the Pakistan Cricket Board in 2015. The T-20 league officially kickstarted in 2016’s February. Cricket fanatics worldwide were beyond impressed by the new launch of the league and how well it was able to progress. The class and quality cricket put up was surely an awesome work of art to witness. From a glamorous opening to PSL to a spectacular show of cricket and a nail-biting final, it was no surprise that despite PSL was a newcomer. It took over the cricket industry by storm. The winners for the first season of PSL were none other than Islamabad United that beat Quetta Gladiators in a head to head, thrilling final.
A few of the major flaws experienced in the first season were thankfully taken care of in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League in 2017. The drastic and possibly the most important was the fact that the PSL 2017’s final match was played in Pakistan’s home ground Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, thus reviving international cricket back in Pakistan after 9 years. The second season of PSL was said to have been telecasted in over 10 territories, and the ratings and viewership were higher than ever, as claimed by the chairman, Najam Sethi. The final match resulted in tickets being sold out in less than an hour and a full house stadium of patriotic fans. Though it was unfortunate to note that despite the final being held in Pakistan, many foreign players dropped out to avoid flying to Pakistan due to security reasons. Players were then replaced with another draft and in a head to head final between Peshawar Zalmi and two-time PSL finalist Quetta Gladiators; Peshawar Zalmi conquered the winning title for PSL 2017.
The third edition of the Pakistan Super League 2018, too, brought about quite a few changes, similar to 2017, but even better! Instead of the final match being played in Pakistan, the third edition called for two playoff matches to be played in Lahore and the final match to be played in Karachi. More foreign players were interested in flying to Pakistan for the playoffs/finals, and every foreign player would be rewarded with $10,000 per match played in Pakistan. Pakistan Super League 2018 was bigger and better as 13 more foreign star players joined the league, which made the number of new signings at 20 players. The third season of Pakistan Super League experienced its first expansion of the league, with the addition of another team ‘Multan Sultans’ making the 5 team rivalry to 6. The performance for each team seemed to differ greatly from that as of previous seasons, and to know all about that and more. You might want to grab some snacks and finish reading this article.
The draft for the third edition of the Pakistan Super League varied from what was followed in the previous two seasons. Unlike the others, the player draft for season three of PSL was held in Lahore instead of Dubai on 12th November 2017. With a total of 501 players (193 Pakistani and 308 overseas), each franchise was allowed to pick 16 players. Multan Sultan is the new addition to the league, given an upper-hand as it was their inaugural season by allowing them to pick 9 players before the draft. The players of previous seasons were divided into retained and released players. The new team picked their pre-draft players, from the players that were released by other franchises.
Shahid Khan Afridi: The biggest trade for the season was claimed when Afridi was transferred from Peshawar Zalmi to Karachi Kings in exchange for one gold and two silver picks.
Mohammad Rizwan: The gold category player Mohammad Rizwan had been picked by Karachi Kings in exchange for the gold player Sohail Khan to Lahore Qalandars.
Iftikhar Ahmed: Islamabad United brought Ahmed from Peshawar Zalmi in exchange for a supplementary player in the second round of the draft.
A PSL secretariat stated how each season of PSL led to a bigger and better one by the next edition. This can easily be proved by the signing of new players to the draft. On 30th September Chairman Najam Sethi announced some of the top new players that joined the league, which included; Imran Tahir, JP Duminy, Mustafizur Rahman, Luke Ronchi, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons and many more. By mid-October, newer players were brought in that also included some iconic players such as Jason Holder, Adil Rashid, and James Vince. It was also reported shortly after that two Chinese cricket players were also signed by Peshawar Zalmi.
Similar to the previous two seasons of the league, the matches for the third season were played in Dubai and Sharjah alternatively, while the playoffs and the final was scheduled to play in Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan. The ICC security team had paid a visit to National Stadium, Karachi, before the league to ensure the conditions of the stadium. Najam Sethi had assured that the renovation would be complete by February 2018 for the final. The capacity for each stadium varied greatly, with Sharjah having the lowest of 15,000 and Karachi having the highest with 34,228.
The opening ceremony for the PSL 2018 took place at the Dubai International cricket stadium on 22nd February 2018. The event was hosted by Pakistani movie stars Bilal Ashraf and Hareem Farooq. The international pop star performance was by American singer and songwriter Jason Durelo. The event was followed by some fine performances by iconic Pakistani legends such as Abida Parveen, Ali Zafar, and Shehzad Roy. The teaser of the Pakistani film Teefa in Trouble released its first teaser during the opening ceremony. The night ended in a traditional show of Pakistani Sachal orchestra, and the night ended with a display of colorful fireworks.
The teams for the third edition of the league differed due to the introduction of the new team ‘Multan Sultans’ and the addition of new players to the league. Some of the players of previous seasons were retained, and some were released. While we are not quite sure about the drastic effect it might have had on some of the teams, the replacements and additions surely did put up some good quality cricket.
Presenting the two-time champions, Islamabad United. The team won their second title by winning the PSL in 2018. Though they were off to a slow start as they lost two of their first three matches and their captain and vice-captain faced some injuries, none of these unfortunate factors could stop them from winning. United won by ultimately beating Peshawar Zalmi in the final, and their pace and commitment justified them winning the title.
Karachi kings put up some spectacular cricket for viewers to watch. They were surely the talk of the season as they won all three of their opening matched, soaring to the top of the points table. They ultimately finished second in the league as they were knocked out by Peshawar Zalmi in the second eliminator. Though they were far better this time around, injuries to the captain Imad Wasim and all-star player Shahid Afridi gave the team a serious set-back as the king’s stand-in captain Mohammad Amir probably was not able to make the right decisions for the team.
Surprisingly, Peshawar Zalmi did not bring their A-game to the league this season. Their unpredictability depicted similar traits of the Pakistan Cricket Team rather than Zalmi itself. Zalmi could have been knocked out in the first stage of eliminators, let alone qualifying for the finals. Though they were right above Lahore qalandars on the points table and with their players facing injuries, they dragged themselves to the final and lost to Islamabad United by three wickets.
Unfortunately, Lahore Qalandars just seemed to have some bad karma attached to it. The team finished last by again scoring the lowest points on the points table, making it the consecutive third placement on the points table. It looks like Lahore Qalandars made a hat-trick for all the wrong reasons. They lost six of their opening matches at the start of the league but managed to pick some pace up as they won 3/4 of the final matches as they were determined to not finish last this season. However, it was too late, and they were ultimately eliminated by Peshawar Zalmi.
Quetta Gladiators again were one of the top-notch teams of the tournament. However, similar to Lahore qalandars their consistency only lasted till the second stage of the eliminators when they lost to Peshawar Zalmi by just one run, had they won they would have been one of the finalists against Islamabad United. They won 5 matches out of the 11 played.
The new team won 4 of their 10 matches played. As they were off to a good start when they won their four of their six opening matches, unfortunately, that did not last long. They played safe and used defensive strategies throughout the tournament, which initially proved as a strength for them but soon turned into a weakness. They lost 4/4 of their last games in the league and finished second last on the points table.
The closing ceremony was held on 25th March in National Stadium Karachi, before the final match between Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United. The event was hosted by Bilal Ashraf and some glamorous performances by Pakistani singers such as; Aima Baig, Strings, Ali Zafar, Farhan Saeed, and many more that were set to follow. The stadium was sold out in 3 hours with a final attendance of a crowd of 33,000.
Final match summary
Peshawar Zalmi elected to bat first as they won the toss. Opening Kamran Akmal was dismissed shortly by Samit Patel after scoring 1 run. Zalmi managed to pick up some pace as they reached their 4th wicket loss. The fifty partnership between Liam Dawson and Chris Jordan and Wahab Riaz’s outstanding 28 runs in 14 balls led to them making a final target of 148. Islamabad United’s Shadab Khan’s three wickets restricted Zalmi from putting up a commendable score to chase.
Towards the second innings, Luke Ronchi from Islamabad united hit 5 sixes in the first five overs as he scored 45 runs off of just 15 balls. He managed to score a half-century after he was dismissed in the ninth over. The opening partnership between Ronchi and Sahibzada Farhan had led to 96 runs in under nine overs. Islamabad then went on to a rough patch as they lost six wickets for 20 runs, leaving them at 116/6. Kamran Akmal dropped a catch at the fine leg that could have gotten Asif Ali’s wicket, the turning point that proved to be costly for Zalmi. Islamabad needed just 30 runs off 33 balls; Asif Ali hit three sixes against the Zalmi bowler and generator, Hasan Ali. Faheem Ashraf led the team to their finish as he scored a six against Wahab Riaz, while just one run was required, which ultimately led to Islamabad United being crowned champions for the second time in Pakistan Super League history. Luke Ronchi received the title for a man of the match
Best Batsmen: Kamran Akmal of Peshawar Zalmi, who scored 425 runs in the league.
Best bowler of the tournament: Faheem Ashraf of Islamabad united who took 18 wickets in the tournament equal to the number of wickets Peshawar Zalmi’s Wahab Riaz took.
Player of the tournament: Luke Ronchi of Islamabad United, who scored 435 runs, with an average of 43.5 as he was the leading run-scorer as well. He also hit five centuries with 94* being his best score.
Safe hands: Kumar Sangkarra of Multan Sultans took the most catches of the tournament. His excellent wicket-keeping skills led him to take as many as 10 catches.
Fairplay award: Islamabad United were given the fair play award for their high spirit throughout the tournament. Captain Misbah Ul Haq and JP Duminy, who led the team in later stages, helped the team win the title.
Best umpire: Rashid Riaz was named the best umpire of the tournament as he gave the most number of correct decisions during those stressful moments.
The series was undoubtedly better and improved as compared to the previous seasons. Not only did the board manage to fly in more foreign players for the matches, but the quality of cricket put up, and the high spirit of fans in 2018 led to another commendable, successful PSL season.