After nearly a month of uninterrupted action, the seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is set to end with a grand final at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.

Over 400 sixes were smashed by batters in the competition, while over 900 fours were also hit.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, PSL 2022 is held at just two venues – Karachi and Lahore.

At the National Stadium, the difference between teams winning after striking first or second is minimal while at Gaddafi Stadium, the teams that strike first have a clear advantage.

At the national stadium, the scores were comparatively higher and it seemed like the stick was a bit easier. Yet at Gaddafi Stadium, batters struggled to score against bowlers who know how to vary the pace.

Story:

In the final of the first edition of the PSL, Islamabad United won against Quetta Gladiators in Dubai. The star of the show for the winning team were Dwayne Smith (73 of 51) and Brad Haddin (not 61 of 39).

In the second edition final, which was the PSL game hosted in Pakistan, it was Peshawar Zalmi, managed by Darren Sammy, who defeated Quetta Gladiators to clinch their first title by 58 points.

In PSL 2018, United emerged as champions again after beating defending champion Peshawar Zalmi by three wickets at Gaddafi Stadium.

In the 2019 edition, it was the Quetta Gladiators who finally won on their third try and defeated Zalmi in the final at the National Stadium in Karachi.

In the fifth season, it was the Karachi Kings who beat their rivals Lahore Qalandars while playing at their home ground, the National Stadium. It was the first time that none of the Gladiators, United or Zalmi had made the final.

Last year it was the Multan Sultans who proved too strong for Zalmi and ended up claiming their first title with a comprehensive victory.

What to expect:

For the grand finale, a full house is expected for the clash. In terms of playing conditions, the pitch is likely to be the slowest and the team that wins the toss is likely to strike first.

Before the all-important clash, let’s take a look at how both teams fared for the final and assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Consequent Sultans:

The Multan Sultans will enter the final of the event as heavy favorites as they became the only team in the competition’s history with 10 wins, nine of which came in the league stage.

The dominance shown by the Sultans is unprecedented in PSL history as no team has come close to them in almost every match.

In doing so, they became only the second team after Peshawar Zalmi to advance to the final while defending their title.

Strengths:

Sultans strength is their batting unit where all players have fulfilled the designated role with absolute perfection.

They are led by in-form captain and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan who has already scored 532 runs with an outstanding average of 76 with a strike rate of 126.96, which included seven half-centuries.

In doing so, he became the only hitter in PSL history to score over 500 runs in two seasons.

He is exceptionally supported by his opening partner Shan Masood who has already amassed 459 carries at an average of 41.72 with a strike rate of 138.67, which included four scores of 50 or more.

Shan Massoud

The duo have been exceptional at the top and have averaged 60 runs for the opening partnership, the highest of any opening partnership in the competition.

The secret to their success is their ability to rotate the strike and play the fewest point balls compared to any other opening pair in the league.

Aside from them is Rilee Rossouw, the defending playoff champions’ player of the game, who scored 260 points to average over 43.

The emergence of Khushdil Shah – who was always renowned for his punch at the bottom of the order – as an all-rounder turned the Sultans into a real powerhouse.

The 27-year-old scored 121 runs at an average of 24.20 with a blistering strike rate of 198.36 while he was also the second highest wicket taker in the competition along with teammate Imran Tahir with 16 scalps to his name at an average of 12.31.

One of their main strengths has been their spin bowling, especially after the arrival of Asif Afridi who not only won five wickets in four matches but also gave runs at an economical rate of seven runs per over.

He and Tahir squeeze run in the middle phase of the innings.

Moreover, another aspect that cannot be overlooked is the captaincy of Rizwan who was undoubtedly the most influential leader in the competition.

He remains calm under pressure and always gives the impression that things are completely under control, no matter how dire the situation.

If the Sultans manage to win consecutive PSL titles under his captaincy, it will surely increase the votes in favor of Rizwan to name him captain of the national team as well, at least in T20 format.

Weakness:

While it’s hard to fathom the weakness of the Sultans contingent, Tim David’s absence could weaken their batting lineup.

The right-hander still has the most sixes (20) in the competition but is unlikely to feature in the all-important game as he tested positive for Covid-19.

Even though he was replaced by a very capable hitter Johnson Charles, but expecting him to produce a similar type of performance as David showcased earlier will be a bit unrealistic.

Unpredictable Qalandars of Lahore

Lahore Qalandars will enter the contest as underdogs, despite playing in front of the home crowd, largely because they will face an in-form Multan Sultans who also beat them in qualifying, all too comprehensively.

Strength:

The strength of Lahore Qalandars is their bowling department, which is by far the strongest, at least on paper.

The fast bowling unit is full of match winners who have the ability to turn the game around by claiming timely breakthroughs.

It is for this reason that they are the most successful team at the end of the innings, having won the most wickets of any bowling unit in the competition.

The leader of the pack is captain Shaheen Shah Afridi who is also the franchise’s highest wicket taker in the competition.

He also has the services of young Zaman Khan who is exceptional at the death and has already produced many game-winning performances, at least in the late rounds.

Haris Rauf’s presence is always a positive for the unit as he has the pace to upset any hitter, but there is always a risk that he will run errands which makes him a troubled package for the captain. and the fans too.

The spin department seems more than handy, especially since Mohammad Hafeez started bowling. It is extremely economical and also has the ability to take wickets at critical times.

Fakhar Zaman’s outstanding form with the bat is another bright spot for Qalandars ahead of the big game. He’s already the top run-getter in the competition and is set to become the first hitter to score 600+ runs in a single PSL season.

Fakhar Zaman

Shaheen’s captaincy was hugely encouraging to cricket fans nationwide as he made bold calls and appeared relatively calm under pressure.

However, when the big day comes, his title of captain will be contested in front of the local public and against a seasoned activist like Rizwan.

Weakness:

When the tournament started, many expected the batting department to be the Achilles heel of Qalandars and that turns out to be the case as well.

The team is extremely dependent on Fakhar Zaman’s form and in the matches, where he failed to deliver, the team never seemed to fight.

It’s pretty obvious that it will be nothing short of a miracle if Qalandars manages to lift the trophy with just one in-form striker.

Therefore, with the title on the line for the second time in three years, management is hoping for a much better performance from the rest of the batting unit, especially from the failed Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Ghulam and Phil Salt. to meet expectations so far.

With the departure of Rashid Khan, Qalandars’ rotational attack looks slightly weaker compared to before, although Fawad Ahmed is a more than capable replacement and there is also an option of Samit Patel, Hafeez and Kamran Ghulam.

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