The Pakistan Super League, which started with five teams on Feb. 4, is now down to just two teams -- Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators. The two teams are set for a mega clash in the PSL final, which will be held at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.
Islamabad and Quetta have been consistent in the inaugural edition of the PSL and their spot in the final is well deserved. Quetta defeated Peshawar Zalmi in the first qualifying final to secure their final berth.
However, Islamabad's route to the final was not easy. They had to first defeat Karachi Kings and then Peshawar to set up a date with Quetta.
After the round robin stages, it was Peshawar Zalmi, who topped the PSL standings, and the Shahid Afridi-led side had two chances to book their berth in the final, but, yet, they failed. Sunday's PSL game between Islamabad and Peshawar was a virtual semifinal, and the former, with the help of Sharjheel Khan's magnificent ton – 117 runs from 62 balls – produced an emphatic win. Islamabad won the match comprehensively by 50 runs, thus knocking Peshawar out.
With such an impressive victory under their belt, Islamabad will be a confident unit when they take on Quetta. However, they need to deliver their best game if they are to clinch the PSL title.
Islamabad and Quetta's head-to-head record in the PSL suggests the latter will be the favourite. Quetta Gladiators won both matches against Islamabad United in the league stages of the PSL. Quetta outplayed Islamabad on both the occasions, winning the PSL opener by eight wickets and the second game by seven wickets.
The Islamabad batsmen need to come up with a great batting performance in the PSL final, as they have let down their team when faced up against Quetta, scoring just 128 and 117 runs. Such scores are never going to trouble the potent batting lineup that Quetta possesses, which includes Kevin Pietersen, Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfaraz Ahmed.
However, Islamabad will take inspiration from their batting performances in the playoff stages. They chased down Karachi's score of 111 runs in 14.2 overs and piled on 176 runs against Peshawar. With players such as Dwayne Smith, Brad Haddin and Sharjheel Khan scoring runs, Islamabad United will back themselves to come up with another good performance in the PSL final.
As far as the bowlers are concerned, there is nothing much to choose between the two teams. If Islamabad has Mohammad Irfan and Andre Russell, Quetta has Anwar Ali and Mohammad Nawaz. Russell and Nawaz have been the standout bolwers in the PSL, taking 13 wickets each.
The final is expected to be a cracker of a contest with both teams fairly well balanced, even if Quetta, who has been the most consistent team in the PSL with only two losses so far, has a slight edge.
PSL final schedule
Islamabad United vs Quetta Gladiators
Date: February 23
Time: 8 p.m. local time ( 9:30 p.m. IST, 9 p.m PST, 4 p.m. GMT)
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium
TV listings: Pakistan: PTV Sports, Ten Sports. UK: Prime TV. USA: Willow TV. Middle East: OSN.