HBL PSL V is slowly but surely moving to a stage where teams fight tooth and nail to displace each other on the points table to stay on top.
We had an absolute cracker of a game at Lahore a few days ago between Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars and now the action moves to a novel territory - Multan - for perhaps another fascinating contest between two sides that are very capable of outgunning one another.
The home side - Multan Sultans - sit in fourth place on the points table having won the game against Lahore, thanks to their potent spin attack, but then the revamped franchise put in a rather insipid performance against Islamabad where they couldn't handle the onslaught from Luke Ronchi (74) and Colin Munro (50).
Meanwhile, the yellow storm is picking up momentum and Multan's owner Ali Tareen has made a request — albeit a lighthearted one — to his counterpart, Javed Afridi and asked him to tell Kamran to go easy on Multan today.
Well, we know Kamran is not going to pay heed to the request and is expected to go on his merry way. The veteran's partnership with the budding cricketer Haider Ali - who has risen to prominence from U19 level - proved to be the difference in the high-voltage tussle against Quetta.
Peshawar boast fine death bowling options in the shape of Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz - the latter is a sandshoe crusher specialist but today, they will be up against seasoned campaigners, Moeen Ali and Rilee Rossouw, who have had a few games to acclimatize to the conditions, and it could be their day to live up to the billing and justify their platinum player status.
Mohammad Irfan's lukewarm performance is a sign of worry for Multan because he looked languid in his last spell and leaked 43 runs while Imran Tahir was also taken to the cleaners by United's belligerent opening pair.
PSL has always spurred Kamran Akmal into action and he has been a consistent performer since the league's inception. He is off to a good start this year and has already smashed a century against familiar foes Quetta Gladiators in the eighth game. That knock overshadowed Jason Roy's 73-run blitzkrieg. The 38-year-old little dynamite has struck three of the six centuries scored in the entire history of PSL.
The wild-card pick by Multan in the draft is a versatile batsman who can play 360 degrees and dominate the proceedings at any stage. He has got all the shots up his sleeve as demonstrated by his blazing fifty, albeit for a losing cause, against United.
According to Ali Tareen, the previous management didn't give the freedom to the southpaw for playing his natural game and he was told to play the anchor role but the new management has gone with a different strategy and allowed players to play according to their plans and use their judgement in any situation of the game. That said, Shan was guilty of scoring at a slow strike rate in the fixture against Islamabad where he scored 21 off 20 balls and it remains to be seen if he would be able to up the ante tonight.
Afridi is always a player to watch out for despite the fact that he is in the twilight of his career. He got rid of Colin Munro on a quicker delivery and conceded 25 runs in three overs. He couldn't really tee off with the bat in the last game but perhaps Multan could serve as a happy hunting ground for Lala? Let's see if the crowd puller amuses the fans with his coruscating strokeplay.
Both teams shave won two games against each other in the last four meetings. Last year, Peshawar beat Multan by seven wickets and on that day, Umar Amin and Kieron Pollard smoked quickfire half-centuries that powered Zalmi to victory.
Earlier in the same edition, Peshawar romped to victory by five wickets in Sharjah. Hasan Ali delivered a match-winning spell that blew the competition away as he picked four wickets. Going further back to 2018 edition, Multan emerged victorious in two lopsided affairs.
After a two-day breather, HBL PSL V will resume today to enthral the cricket-starved fans in Multan and Rawalpindi — the two new venues set to host PSL games for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Multan Cricket Stadium hosted its first Test in 2001 during Asian Test Championship. It is the venue where Virender Sehwag slugged a record 309 that helped India cruise past Pakistan.
The venue has a capacity of about 30,000 and is known for its lush green outfield. The last international match (an ODI) at Multan was played on April 16, 2008, between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The idyllic cricket ground went through a renovation and upscaling of facilities after PCB decided in 2018 to improve the state of all venues in Pakistan.
Shan Masood (capt), Rilee Rossouw, James Vince, Zeeshan Ashraf, Khshdil Shah, Wayne Madsen, Shahid Afridi, Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara, Sohail Tanvir, Bilawal Bhatti, Rohail Nazir (wk), Fabian Allen, Mohammad Ilyas, Ali Shafiq, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Imran Tahir, Usman Qadir
Hasan Ali, Kieron Pollard, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Akmal, Darren Sammy, Imam-ul-Haq, Umar Amin, Tom Banton, Shoaib Malik, Liam Dawson, Mohammad Mohsin, Rahat Ali, Dwaine Pretorius, Adil Amin, Amir Khan, Aamir Ali, Liam Livingstone, Haider Ali Khan