After suffering a narrow defeat to the Lahore Qalandars on the first day of the resumption, Islamabad United will take on the Quetta Gladiators in Match 18 of the 2021 Pakistan Super League (PSL) at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on June 11.
Having lost the chance to go to the top of the PSL 2021 table, Islamabad are now placed fourth with three wins from five games. The Gladiators, meanwhile, hold the wooden spoon with only one win from five matches and a net run rate of -0.936.
Islamabad's batting, which was heavily reliant on the now-absent Alex Hales, underwhelmed in the game against the Qalandars. Hales had 139 runs in the four games he played, and his replacement Usman Khawaja managed a scratchy 18 before falling to Haris Rauf.
The rest of the batting order - Colin Munro, Shadab Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed and Rohail Nazir - failed as well, with Islamabad managing only 143/9 in their 20 overs. The highest score in the innings was Faheem Ashraf's 27, leaving the bowling attack with a lot to do.
Hasan Ali, Ashraf and Fawad Ahmed kept Islamabad in the game right until the very last over, but Rashid Khan took the Qalandars over the line en route to a well-deserved Man of the Match award.
The Gladiators will be boosted by the arrivals of Andre Russell, Jack Wildermuth, Jake Weatherald and Zahir Khan, who will play for the franchise in place of Tom Banton, Dale Steyn, Ben Cutting for the remainder of PSL 2021.
We are in for a competitive encounter in Abu Dhabi. While the Gladiators have found excellent replacements and have a lot to play for, Islamabad will be desperate for a win that will put them in a comfortable position in PSL 2021.
PSL 2021: ISL vs QUE Match Prediction
As mentioned earlier, Islamabad's main worry is their batting. The bowlers did their job against the Qalandars, bowling economically and keeping the opposition batsmen thinking throughout the 20 overs. But a poor bowling change from Shabad Khan for the final over undid all the hard work.
Islamabad have a decent lineup on paper. While Khawaja and Munro form a lethal opening partnership, there's enough talent in the middle order. But that talent may not be able to translate into performances so early in the Abu Dhabi leg of PSL 2021, with many batsmen needing time to adjust to conditions at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
For the Gladiators, their replacements like Russell and Wildermuth will be a breath of fresh air. Faf du Plessis is a batsman reborn after his stint with the Chennai Super Kings in the 2021 Indian Premier League, with other T20 specialists like Cameron Delport and Zahir Khan also part of the roster.
Hard-hitting batsman Azam Khan, who recently earned his maiden call-up to the Pakistan team, adds an extremely exciting dimension to the middle order. Usman Khan smashed 81 in the Gladiators' final game before PSL 2021 was suspended. If they can click along with captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, the franchise might be impossible to stop in the Abu Dhabi leg of PSL 2021.
The Gladiators' biggest issue in Karachi was that they weren't able to restrict the flow of runs. Only Mohammad Nawaz had an economy rate of under eight, and even he picked up only one wicket over the course of five matches. If the other bowlers like young tearaway quick Naseem Shah and Mohammad Hasnain and Zahid Mahmood can hit the right lengths, the Gladiators can run away with a win.
Like most PSL 2021 matches, this is an extremely difficult one to call. Islamabad have the advantage of having already played a game, which we saw aided the Qalandars lower-order batsmen yesterday. But the Gladiators' bowling, which appears to be their weak link, might benefit from the sluggish surface on offer in Abu Dhabi.
While this contest could go either way, the Gladiators have several in-form, confident players and the Islamabad batting unit wasn't anywhere near impressive in the previous PSL 2021 game. Sarfaraz Ahmed might walk away from this game as the happier captain.
Prediction: Quetta Gladiators to win