The sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) officially gets underway on Saturday evening. The first Sunday of PSL 2021 will feature a double-header. Last season's runners-up Lahore Qalandars will kickstart their PSL 2021 campaign against one-time winners and three-time finalists, Peshawar Zalmi, in the first match.
After seasons of struggle, Lahore Qalandars made it to their first-ever PSL final in 2020. Although they didn't start the season well, the Qalandars found their groove at the right time, thanks to some extraordinary individual performances.
Over the years, Lahore Qalandars' progress has been marred by a plethora of injuries to key players. In the last edition, they managed to retain a core group that featured throughout the season and propelled them into the play-offs.
This year, too, the Men in Green comprise a similar squad. Chris Lynn is the notable absentee who has been recruited by Multan Sultans. But Lahore Qalandars still boast of a lot of experience and firepower in their batting order.
Mohammad Hafeez, the veteran Pakistan all-rounder, is in the form of his life with the bat. Lahore Qalandars' skipper, Sohail Akhtar is also enjoying a purple patch. He was the most prolific run-getter in the recently-concluded Abu Dhabi T10 League 2020-21. There is also Ben Dunk, who was at the core of Lahore's resurgence in PSL 2020 and scored 300 runs at an incredible strike rate of over 167.
Qalandars have also got hold of a lethal bowling trio for PSL 2021 - Shaheen Afridi, Rashid Khan, and Haris Rauf. All three topped the T20 bowling charts last year with 52, 56, and 57 scalps respectively. Rashid Khan, however, will only be available for a couple of matches before he flies off to join the Afghanistan team for national duty.
Lahore Qalandars Expected XI: Fakhar Zaman, Sohail Akhtar (capt), Salman Ali Agha/Zaid Alam, Mohammad Hafeez, Ben Dunk (wk), Samit Patel, David Wiese, Rashid Khan, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi, Dilbar Hussain
In contrast, Peshawar Zalmi will be eager to amend things this season, following their worst-ever PSL campaign last year. They finished fourth after losing out to Lahore Qalandars in the first Eliminator.
Peshawar Zalmi are in a rebuilding and rebooting phase as they look to make an impact in PSL 2021. Zalmi have overhauled their squad, signing several new players. This includes a maiden PSL call-up for Afghanistan's mystery spinner, Mujeeb Ur Rahman to bolster the spin-bowling department. They have also added David Miller and Tom-Kohler Cadmore to the squad.
Peshawar Zalmi have parted ways with their premier fast-bowler Hasan Ali who has joined Islamabad United for PSL 2021. Much of the responsibility would now need to be shouldered by Wahab Riaz, Peshawar Zalmi's skipper and the leading wicket-taker in PSL history.
Peshawar Zalmi Expected XI: Haider Ali, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Kamran Akmal (wk), Shoaib Malik, Ravi Bopara, Amad Butt, Wahab Riaz (capt), Umaid Asif, Mohammad Irfan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Imran
Where to watch PSL 2021 in India?
All PSL 2021 matches will be broadcast by the Sony Sports Network in India. Fans can also catch the PSL 2021 live-stream on SonyLIV.