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Pakistan T20 stars aim to shine bright in Abu Dhabi

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LAHORE, Pakistan: It’s all to play for as the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 6 moves to Abu Dhabi with the remaining 20 matches of the season to be staged at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium from the first week of June.

Defending champions Karachi Kings, 2017 champions Peshawar Zalmi, 2016 and 2018 champions Islamabad United and last year’s runner-up Lahore Qalandars are all locked at six points after an engrossing 14-match Karachi-leg (20 February-3 March).

While the teams have tweaked their foreign players’ rosters for the Abu Dhabi-leg due to availability issues, the core of the teams formed by seasoned Pakistan T20 exponents, remains the same.

Almost all of Pakistan’s leading T20 exponents will be seen in action in Abu Dhabi with their focus on getting their sides through to the playoffs before a shot at the glittering HBL PSL 6 trophy. In the Karachi-leg Faheem Ashraf – Islamabad United, Fakhar Zaman – Lahore Qalandars, Mohammad Nawaz – Quetta Gladiators, Sharjeel Khan –Karachi Kings, Shoaib Malik –Peshawar Zalmi and Sohaib Maqsood –Multan Sultans made significant contributions for their sides, all six hope to make their presence felt in Abu Dhabi too.

United’s all-rounder Faheem provided both control and penetration to his side with the ball, the right-armer took four wickets at 20 at an excellent economy rate of 6.15. His sensational figures of three for 11 in four overs earned him the player of the match award against Gladiators. Faheem also contributed some quick runs with the bat his 49 runs came at a strike-rate of 158.06.

Qalandars’ opener Fakhar leads the HBL PSL 6 run-scorers list for his side. The left-hander scored 189 runs in four innings in Karachi at 63 with a 143.18 strike rate. His best was 83 and the typically aggressive batter hit seven sixes and 18 fours at the National Stadium while providing Qalandars some rollicking starts.

Gladiators’ all-rounder Nawaz contributed 89 runs in the Karachi-leg at 29.66 at a strike rate of 128.98 besides taking a wicket. He maintained a decent 7.38 economy rate on a venue where some big scores were made throughout the 14 matches.

Kings’ opener Sharjeel posted the only century of the Karachi-leg, the swashbuckling left-hander scored 200 runs in five innings at 40 at an incredible 170.94 strike rate. Sharjeel hit a whopping 15 sixes and 19 fours in Karachi.

Zalmi’s T20 stalwart Shoaib contributed 101 runs in five innings in Karachi at 33.66 with a best of 34, he remained unbeaten twice. Shoaib scored his runs at 124.69, striking five sixes and six fours in all.

Sultans’ Sohaib Maqsood was the second-highest run-getter for his side behind his captain Mohammad Rizwan with 135 runs at 45. Sohaib made his runs at a 139.17 strike rate, his best contribution was an unbeaten 61, he struck five sixes and 13 fours in Karachi.

Faheem Ashraf – Islamabad United “I enjoyed the Karachi-leg as I made contributions both with bat and ball for my team. I know that I have an important role to play for United and I remain focused on delivering to the best of my ability in Abu Dhabi.

“The weather will be challenging in terms of the heat and humidity so fitness would play a key role for all the six teams, we will prepare hard in the lead-up to our matches and aim to hit the ground running. My personal aim would be to keep making winning contributions for my side both with bat and ball.”

Fakhar Zaman – Lahore Qalandars “I have been pleased with my batting form both for Qalandars and Pakistan in recent months. The Karachi-leg turned out well for us as despite a low net run-rate we are joint equal on points with the table toppers.

“We have gained considerable experience of UAE pitches over the years, the conditions in Abu Dhabi would mostly be batting friendly, the pitches though offer something to the fast bowlers also which makes it a good contest. The weather will be challenging but that will spur us on further. My aim would be to continue to provide good starts to the team and play out long innings for my side whenever an opportunity comes.”

Mohammad Nawaz – Quetta Gladiators “The Karachi-leg was a tough one for us but the victory in our last match there gave us a lot of confidence. We are a team known for our comebacks and fightbacks and we head to Abu Dhabi with our spirits high.

“At a personal level, I am keen to make match-winning contributions both with bat and ball. The Karachi-leg was decent for me in terms of my batting performances while finishing a couple of games for Pakistan in recent T20Is has renewed my belief in my abilities. I have always enjoyed bowling in the UAE and I am preparing myself for making a substantial impact with the ball on pitches which can be conducive to spin bowling.”

Sharjeel Khan – Karachi Kings “The Karachi-leg gave me a lot of confidence as I was able to perform for my team and post the first century of the HBL Pakistan Super League 6. My aim has always been to provide a flying start to the team and play my natural game. Having Babar Azam at the other end brings a lot of comfort and joy.

“Being the defending champions and table toppers in the current edition, we head to Abu Dhabi with a great deal of confidence. However, Abu Dhabi conditions would not be that easy especially with the heat, my target would be to attack from the outset and make significant contributions for my team. I have a firm belief that we have the capability of defending our title.”

Shoaib Malik – Peshawar Zalmi “As a seasoned campaigner, my job is to use my experience to the benefit of my team and play the finisher’s role with the bat in tough situations. I am pleased with my batting form and fitness standards that I was able to put on show during the Karachi-leg. We bonded well as a team which helped us to our second position on the points table.

“In Abu Dhabi, the heat would be a big challenge for all the teams and the ones who cope the best with the conditions will be best placed to lift the trophy. As always, I would aim to deliver to the best of my ability and take the team through tough situations while offering my full support to the captain and team management. I have worked extremely hard on my batting and fitness in recent months which should hopefully help me a great deal at the business end of the tournament.”

Sohaib Maqsood – Multan Sultans “The Karachi-leg was a tough one for us in terms of the results but I think we fought really hard and gave a good fight in almost every match. My batting form was pretty decent too and now my aim is to carry the form and in fact improve it significantly in Abu Dhabi.

“My recent stint at the National High-Performance Centre was immensely valuable, the Abu Dhabi-leg provides me an excellent opportunity of putting to test the skills I learned in what would be challenging conditions in terms of the weather. This is an action-packed year and I know that if I do well for Sultans, I can be back in the reckoning for the national team. First and foremost though, my target is to resurrect the team’s fortunes with some match-winning performances through which we can hopefully make it through to the playoffs.”

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