The sporting events around the world have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic and amidst all the chaos, Lahore will host the Pakistan Super League 2020 knockouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. Table-topper Multan Sultans will play Peshawar Zalmi in the first semi-final, while Karachi Kings will take on Lahore Qalandars in the second. Both semi-finals will take place behind closed doors at the Gaddafi Stadium on March 17, while the finale too will be played at the same venue on March 18.
Karachi lost their final group-stage match to Quetta Gladiators, while Lahore made it to the semi-finals on the back of some 'Lynnsanity'. Chris Lynn slammed an unbeaten 55-ball 113 against Multan Sultans to propel his team into the knockouts but the Australian opening batsman, like many other foreign players, has decided to cut short his stint due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Lynn was the second-highest run-getter in this tournament and Lahore will surely feel his absence in the semi-final. Lahore however have enough arsenal in their squad with the likes of Ben Dunk, skipper Sohail Akhtar, Mohammad Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman all being in good form. The Gaddafi Stadium has so far hosted 10 games this season, with runs being scored at a rate of 8.7 and an average of 28.5. The venue has been kind to the batsmen and the above-mentioned names will look to make the most of it.
In the bowling department, Shaheen Shah Afridi has emerged as the second-leading wicket-taker and once again a lot will depend on the left-arm pacer. He will need some support from Samit Patel, Dilbar Hussain, Haris Rauf and David Wiese who have been far from impressive this season and will have to be at their best against Babar Azam and Co.
The No. 1 T20I batsman has been in phenomenal form this season and is currently the highest run-scorer, with 345 runs at 49.28 to his name. The last time these two sides met in the group stage, Azam and Sharjeel Khan smashed unbeaten fifties as Karachi thumped Lahore by 10 wickets. The two opening batsmen will once have to shoulder most of the responsibility, while the likes of Iftikhar Ahmed, Cameron Delport, Chadwick Walton and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan will also have to chip in.
Imad Wasim, Chris Jordan and Mohammad Amir will lead Karachi's bowling attack and they will have ample support from the likes of Umaid Asif, Usama Mir and Arshad Iqbal. With empty stands, the atmosphere at the Gaddafi Stadium will be quite dull, but surely there will be no shortage of energy and excitement on the field with the talents these two teams possess, and there's a spot in the finals at stake too.
Lahore will have to find a replacement for Lynn. However, they have few players in their XI who can open the innings for them, which means Lahore can also play an all-rounder to bring more balance into the playing XI.
They rested Imad, Jordan and Amir for their final group encounter and the three will be back for the semi-final.
Sohail Akhtar (c), Fakhar Zaman, Ben Dunk (wk), Mohammad Hafeez, Samit Patel, David Wiese, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Raja Farzan, Dilbar Hussain, Muhammad Faizan, Usman Shinwari, Salman Irshad, Maaz Khan.
Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam (c), Cameron Delport, Chadwick Walton, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Usama Mir, Arshad Iqbal, Umer Khan, Ali Khan, Waqas Maqsood, Imad Wasim, Chris Jordan, Umaid Asif, Mohammad Amir.