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Holders Karachi Kings face Quetta Gladiators as PSL-6 starts today

By our correspondent
KARACHI: Karachi Kings will begin their title defence when they will lock horns with the former champions Quetta Gladiators in the opening game of the HBL Pakistan Super League (HBL) 2021 which will explode into action here at the National Stadium on Saturday (today).
The match begins at 8 pm.
Gladiators, who failed to make it to the play-offs last season by finishing fifth in the round robin league stage, have got ample resources to make up for their last season’s failure. Sarfraz Ahmad-led side look much balanced, featuring Chris Gayle, Tom Banton, Cameron Delport and Azam Khan. Gayle will return to West Indies after playing three initial matches due to national commitment, a Gladiators source told this correspondent on Friday. “Yes after national commitment he will join us again for the Lahore leg,” the source said. Former South Africa’s Test captain Faf du Plessis has already been roped in as Gayle’s partial replacement.
With Dale Steyn not available for initial two matches  due to domestic engagement  Gladiators will depend on their young pace-battery featuring the last season’s highly impressive Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Shinwari and Naseem Shah. Gladiators also have some dangerous all-rounders including Australia’s Ben Cutting, Anwar Ali and Mohammad Nawaz. There are two leggies in the squad including Afghanistan’s Qais Ahmad and Zahid Mahmood. A Gladiators said that Zahid would be there in the first match.
“Yes Zahid will play 300 percent,” a source said. Zahid recently had a dream T20 International debut against South Africa when he had two wickets in his first over, finishing with three-wicket haul in the final game which Pakistan won to seal three-match series 2-1.
Besides having won the event once, Gladiators also remained runners-up two times. In the PSL so far Gladiators have played ten matches against Karachi Kings and of them Gladiators have won seven and lost just three. They will definitely have a psychological edge over the Kings.
“Last year Umar Akmal’s incident and travelling issues dented our journey overall. This time we are confident to do well,” Gladiators coach Moin Khan said. “Its just the start. After the first match we will be in a position to know something about the lot as creating tight bonding needs some time,” Moin said.
It would be a fresh beginning for Karachi Kings under their new coach Herschelle Gibbs who has replaced Dean Jones who died last year in India due to cardiac failure.
Realising that Kings have more depth in line-up, Kings coach Herschelle Gibbs stressed, it would be a new beginning for the players and hoped they would raise their performance graph with each passing match.
He feels that this is an exciting challenge for his charges to retain the crown.
“Some players might feel that they would feel more pressure for being champions. It’s the best chance to go all the way again. Sign of a true champion is the desire to become champions over and over again. Its an exciting challenge,” Gibbs said.
Babar Azam leads the batting pack for Kings which also features Colin Ingram, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Chadwick Walton, Joe Klarke, Australian allrounder Dan Christian and skipper Imad Wasim.
Left-arm seasoned pacer Mohammad Amir will lead the bowling which also carries Arshad Iqbal, Waqas Maqsood and Aamir Yamin.
Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza will be the on-field umpires for the Saturday’s opener, Rashid Riaz will be the third umpire, Asif Yaqoob, fourth umpire and former Sri Lankan opener Roshan Mahanama will deliver his services as match referee.
Thick security arrangements have been made for conducting the event. Only 7500 fans will be able to witness the matches at NSK by observing strict SOPs, whose details have already been released by the organisers. Due to Covid-19 the PSL-6 has been restricted to only Karachi and Lahore. Karachi will host the initial 20 matches while the remaining 14 outings will be staged at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore from March 10 to 22.
This is the second year on trot that PSL is being hosted by Pakistan entirely.
Of the Rs112 million at offer Rs80m has been specified for cash awards.
Karachi Kings – Amir Yamin (gold); Arshad Iqbal (emerging); Babar Azam (platinum); Colin Ingram (platinum, traded from Islamabad United); Chadwick Walton (gold); Dan Christian (diamond); Danish Aziz (silver); Imad Wasim (diamond, successful relation request); Joe Clarke (silver); Mohammad Amir (platinum); Mohammad Nabi (diamond); Mohammad Ilyas (silver); Noor Ahmed (supplementary); Sharjeel Khan (gold), Qasim Akram (emerging); Waqas Maqsood (silver, brand ambassador); Zeeshan Malik (silver)
Quetta Gladiators: Sarfaraz Ahmed, Qais Ahmad, Anwar Ali, Saim Ayub, Tom Banton, Ben Cutting, Cameron Delport, Chris Gayle, Mohammad Hasnain, Arish Ali Khan, Azam Khan, Hassan Khan,Usman Khan, Zahid Mahmood, Abdul Nasir, Mohammad Nawaz, Faf du Plessis, Naseem Shah, Usman Khan Shinwari, Dale Steyn.

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