By our correspondent
KARACHI: Four teams of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 will be battling for the final spots on Tuesday (today) when they clash in the semi-finals at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore.
The stadium will be empty as has already been announced due to fears of deadly coronavirus.
This year’s edition has brought forward two new contenders for the coveted title as Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars have gone beyond the group stage for the first time in the event’s history.
In the first semi-final, Multan Sultans will face Peshawar Zalmi, the 2017 edition’s winners and two-time runners-up, at 2pm, while the biggest rivalry of the event will be ignited once again when Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars face each other in the second semi-final which will commence at 7pm.
Prior to this edition, only three teams including Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United had featured in the HBL PSL finals, which mean that there will be at least one new finalist in the March 18 title showdown.
Multan Sultans were the most successful side in the group-stage with six wins from ten matches. They were perched at the summit for the most part of the tournament and were the first one to secure a semi-final spot.
Zalmi, on the other hand, oscillated from wins to defeats over the course of their ten-match journey to date. They enter the semi-finals, ranked fourth, with four wins and one of their matches getting washed-out.
Sultans came out on top on both occasions when the two teams met in the group matches. They won the first match by six wickets with as many as 31 balls remaining at Multan Cricket Stadium, their home, and secured a three-run win in a closely-fought match at Karachi’s National Stadium.
“We have done all the hard work over the past month and now is the time to make sure that we produce the performances on the day and get the result for which we have been working,” Sultans’ skipper Shan Masood said.
“Zalmi have always been a domestic heavy outfit and that is why you always see them at the top of the table. I am not surprised that they are in the semi-finals. They have got a lot of match winners and we have to respect every single one of them tomorrow and make sure we execute our plans,” he said.
Zalmi skipper Wahab Riaz said they would repeat the 2017 performance.
“It is a big occasion for me to be leading Peshawar Zalmi in the semi-final and it is something which I cannot explain in words. It is a huge responsibility given to me and the franchise has believed in me. I would like to repeat our 2017 campaign and win the trophy, for which we have the capability,” Wahab said.
“Nerves are always there. That’s something I cannot deny as it is a big pressure game but my boys are my strength and I believe and trust in everyone who is going to play tomorrow. Each and every one of them is a match winner and I am hopeful that they are going to deliver.
Meanwhile the biggest inter-city rivalry will come alive once again as Gaddafi Stadium will stage the second semi-final between arch-rivals Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars.
The two teams are locked 1-1 in this edition after defeating each other on their home grounds. Qalandars secured a comprehensive eight-wicket win against Kings at Gaddafi Stadium and Kings avenged it with a commanding 10-wicket win at the National Stadium.
That the semi-final line-up was decided on the very last group match was largely due to Lahore Qalandars, who have progressed beyond the group-stage for the first time after four attempts.
Qalandars finished at the third spot, while Karachi Kings were ranked second at the completion of the group-stage.
Lahore’s skipper Sohail Akhtar said they don’t have extra pressure on them.
“I am very happy with how the team has performed over the course of this tournament and the whole unit is motivated and ready to perform,” he said.
“A semi-final is always a big match, but there is no extra pressure on us because of the fact that we are playing against Karachi Kings. All teams that have progressed this far are quality sides,” he added.
“Though we have chased well, but I believe our strength lies in bowling.”
Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim said that they have made plan for Lahore. “Lahore Qalandars are a very good side and there are no doubts about that. We have plans for them and we just have to execute them. After all, at the end of the day it is just a game of cricket,” he said.
“I am very confident as we have the desired firepower in both bowling and batting departments and we have players who can adapt to all conditions,” he said.
“For me, it is a big moment to be leading Karachi Kings, who are a big franchise, against Lahore Qalandars in the semi-final,” he said.
By our correspondent