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HBL PSL 2020: Reviewing the opening weekend highlights
PSL V: Weekend Review

HBL PSL 2020: Reviewing the opening weekend highlights

The fifth edition of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) has truly lived up to its hype thus far with the glamorous tournament finally experiencing its homecoming for the entire season.

The jam-packed Karachi and Lahore stadia have definitely added to the flavour of the enthralling contests witnessed in the first four days of the highly competitive league.

With the cricketing action now set to grace the Multan Cricket Stadium for the first time ever, we discuss the major highlights of the first weekend of the PSL V.

Ton-up Kamran Akmal makes a case for national selection

Kamran Akmal has acquired a legendary status in the PSL, managing to accumulate a plethora of runs in each PSL edition.

A mountain of runs separates Kamran's top position in the list of highest run-scorers in the PSL with Shane Watson slotted in second place.

A fairly average knock in Peshawar Zalmi's first game was followed by a stupendous masterclass from Kamran in their clash against Quetta Gladiators.

The 38-year-old smashed his third PSL ton – no batsman has scored more than one – and once again waltzed his way into talks surrounding a possible comeback to the national side.

Kamran last turned out in Pakistan colours back in 2017 but the weight of runs and his aggressive run-spree in the top-order for Zalmi could work in his favour to revive his dwindling international career.

Wicketkeeper-batsmen offering plenty

In addition to Kamran's exquisite heroics, several other wicketkeeper-batsmen have shot to prominence in the preceding days owing to their sheer talent.

While it may still be early days to make a genuine assessment on their potential but the likes of Azam Khan and Zeeshan Ashraf have racked up solid contributions showcasing their nascent prowess with the bat.

It is pertinent to note here that Azam has not been used by the Quetta Gladiators in his traditional playing role as a wicketkeeper with that responsibility being entrusted to the side's skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Quetta's top-order failures have been compensated by 21-year-old Azam's magnificent counterpunches. The bulky batter has not been afraid to take the charge to the spinners, often dancing down the track to deposit maximums or make room for himself to nail powerful pull shots towards the midwicket region.

He was the star of the show in the tournament opener, punishing the Islamabad United bowling attack to pull off a steep chase and was in the limelight again when he blasted his side to victory over Karachi Kings.

Sarfaraz's scores of 21, 41 and 37 not out also indicate Mohammad Rizwan's position as the first-choice wicketkeeper for Pakistan might be in jeopardy given the fact he was not even considered for selection in Karachi's second match.

Wrist-spin to the fore again

Wrist-spin is deemed as a significant weapon in T20 cricket as its ability to force batsmen to play against the turn increases the chances of a dismissal occurring.

Amidst this popular perception, Imran Tahir and Shadab Khan's match-winning performances have reinforced this notion once again.

The vastly experienced Tahir is 40 years of age but his skills have barely taken a hit as he spun a web around the Lahore Qalandars' batting line-up to get Multan Sultans off to a winning start.

Shadab travelled the distance in the first two matches for Islamabad, though he was able to recoup his confidence in a high-scoring clash at Gadaffi Stadium on Sunday by snaffling two wickets for 14 runs.

Zalmi's Mohammad Mohsin may well be another leg-spin candidate that the selectors would be interested in grooming for the future.

The absentees

The PSL V has already seen a number of notable omissions from the respective playing XIs in the matches that have been conducted till now.

The shocking exclusion of one of the finds of last year's PSL, Umer Khan, has especially been criticized. The decision to select pacer Arshad Iqbal in the emerging category quota ahead of the left-arm spinner has not paid off for the Kings either as Iqbal has conceded at an economy rate of 11.75.

Another player missing from action is Imam-ul-Haq, who was one of the most consistent performers for Zalmi in PSL 2019. Imam was the fifth-leading run-getter in the fourth season but has not gotten a game for Zalmi this year.

Zafar Gohar's absence from Islamabad United's line-ups in their first three matches is another surprising aspect given his stellar domestic record of late. PSL teams have been observed to be reluctant to rely on spin bowling options.

Lahore Qalandars' foreign recruit Seekkuge Prasanna could pip Samit Patel in the coming games in light of his abundant T20 caps.

The controversy

The PSL clash between Quetta and Peshawar saw heightened emotions as Wahab Riaz was embroiled in a verbal tussle with opposing batsman Jason Roy.

The on-field drama then shifted to the press conference when Gladiators' captain Sarfaraz accused Zalmi of altering the condition of the ball and admitted to following the PCB protocols to lodge a complaint.

Also Read: PCB confirm receiving no official complaint from Gladiators regarding ball-tampering

The PCB, however, clarified the matter and denied having received the official complaint from the Gladiators camp.

Moreover, PCB CEO Wasim Khan stated the need to preserve the integrity of the tournament by refraining from making allegations without backing them up with concrete evidence.