Pakistan cricket fans would be feeling as if they are waltzing around in the realms of time with the scheduled commencement of Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021 looming just around the corner. It’s been hardly three months since the Babar Azam special that propelled Karachi Kings to their maiden PSL title. Now, we’re back to square one with a fresh edition and slightly tweaked squads, gearing up for PSL 6 and for a month’s long period of top-quality T20 cricket. The PSL is all about extreme competitiveness between bat and ball and, over the years, the cricketing fraternity has been treated with captivating player matchups during the competition. In this article, we jot down five such player bouts that will keep the fans in a state of exhilaration during PSL 2021.
Shaheen Afridi v Babar Azam
It’s always exhilarating viewership when a country’s highest-rated batsman and bowler cross swords in a high-profile encounter. In context of the PSL, one such head-to-head battle and perhaps the most intriguing one, too, is between Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi. While the former is already a bulwark in the league, the latter is also clambering towards the top and making his mark felt with every passing edition.
Babar Azam – the second-highest run-getter in PSL’s history – has had wood over his Pakistan teammate ever since the two faced off for the first time in the competition’s 2018-19 season. Pakistan’s all-format skipper has managed to accumulate 62 runs off the left-armer’s bowling at a highly impressive average strike rate of 155. To top it off, he is yet to be dismissed by Shaheen Afridi in the PSL – a feat the tall, lanky bowler will be raring to achieve this year. Whether it goes this way or that this time around, cricket viewers can be sure to savour poetic motion when the two superstars clash.
Mohammad Amir v Chris Lynn
Mohammad Amir locking horns with the Australian T20 goliath – Chris Lynn – promises to be another enthralling duel. Mohammad Amir is the joint third-highest wicket-taker in PSL’s five-year long history and is one scalp away from making it to the fifty wickets landmark in the competition. Despite Karachi Kings’ successful campaign last year, the left-arm pacer had an underwhelming season as far as his individual performances were concerned. With his on-going feud with the current management of the national team, Mohammad Amir will be itching to rejuvenate his bowling form of old and win back favour from Pakistan’s cricketing circles.
Chris Lynn, on the contrary, had an impressive season with the Lahore Qalandars, last year. It was also his first stint in the PSL. He scored 284 runs in 8 appearances at an average of over 40 and a staggering strike rate of 179. Chris Lynn will be featuring in the blue and green of Multan Sultans in PSL 2021. Known for his firepower, the Queenslander could potentially play a key role for the Sultans in this edition. He will, however, have to cope up with a plethora of high-quality fast-bowlers – a group that Mohammad Amir is undoubtedly a part of.
Hasan Ali v Kamran Akmal
Things are bound to get fiery when two players, who have played half a decade in the same franchise, face off in a duel. Both Hasan Ali and Kamran Akmal have been amongst the top performers in the league, let alone for Peshawar Zalmi. While Kamran Akmal is the highest-ever run-getter in PSL history, Hasan Ali is poised at the 2nd spot on the all-time wicket-takers, both in the PSL and for Peshawar Zalmi. He also has the PSL record for most wickets in a single edition under his belt (25). With Hasan Ali now moving to Islamabad United, the two dynamite players are expected to combat each other sometime in this year’s PSL. Kamran Akmal has, in fact, made it clear that there will be no on-field camaraderie between Hasan Ali and himself when the two face off. Things have begun brewing as the genesis of PSL 2021 nears and, if anything less, it will be nerve-wracking to see two top-notch players ply weapons.
Mohammad Nawaz v Ben Dunk
Ben Dunk’s power-hitting prowess in PSL 2020 proved to be revolutionary for Lahore Qalandars. He single-handedly won them two crucial matches against Quetta Gladiators and Karachi Kings which triggered Lahore Qalandars’ inspirited resurgence midway in the tournament and ultimately led them to their maiden PSL final. In that particular game against Quetta Gladiators, Ben Dunk specifically nurtured a liking to Mohammad Nawaz’s bowling and took him to the cleaners. From the seven deliveries that the Queenslander faced off the left-arm orthodox, four were hit out of the park for maximums. The ball turning into Ben Dunk didn’t help Mohammad Nawaz’s cause who is renowned to be amongst the most effective bowlers in PSL. He is the joint third-highest wicket-taker in PSL history and was an integral part of Quetta Gladiators’ winning campaign. He will be raring to settle the scores with Ben Dunk, this year.
Haris Rauf v Haider Ali
Both Haris Rauf and Haider Ali are cricketers with the ability to take it on to the opposition during crunch situations. The only time the duo came to blows was in last year’s PSL. Haris Rauf had tried to upset the batsman’s flow by involving him in a verbal spat which sparked a reaction from the rookie right-hander. Haider Ali, ultimately, had the last laugh when he hooked Haris Rauf for a huge six over backward square leg and motioned him towards the direction where the Kookaburra had gone. The duel lasted merely nine deliveries, but it was riveting enough to keep the fans on the edge of their seats when the two cross paths again this year.