Pakistan Super League Betting: How do the play-off contenders stack up?
As the tournament progresses to the knockouts and prepares to move to Pakistan, Ed Hawkins assesses the teams amid plenty of squad changes
"Zalmi’s crew are all likely to stick together. Initial reports suggest all of their international stars will go. They look to be overrated at the odds"
Karachi Kings [2.40] - Favourites look on the short side
The Kings vaulted to second with their late win over Islamabad. A defeat would have been curtains for their campaign.
They look pretty skinny here ahead of their qualifier with Islamabad. The winner goes straight to the final with the loser playing-off against the victor from the eliminator between Peshawar and Quetta.
With the final being played in Karachi, the cynics would suggest that it is written for them to be there. And certainly the win over United would have given them belief and momentum.
Shahid Afridi, irrepressible still, is leading the charge. And it is good to see that Kings don't rely on him for runs. He is very much a bowling all-rounder these days. With the bat Joe Denly offers reliability.
They are also boosted by the squad sticking together. Denly, Ravi Bopara, Lendl Simmons, Colin Ingram and David Wiese all travel. But so far no confirmation from Eoin Morgan.
Islamabad United [2.94] - Experienced but worth opposing
United have won more games than anybody else. But their ascension to the best team in the group section looked unlikely when they turned in a poor effort against Peshawar Zalmi in their first game.
They conceded 176 - a whopper considering 170-plus would be busted only eight more times - and their batting flopped to go down by 34 runs. But they won five straight to clearly establish themselves as the team to beat.
Their strength is experience. Chiefly the run-getting of old-timers Luke Ronchi and JP Duminy. Between them they have amassed 542 runs. Just as well because Misbah-ul-Haq has had a stinker of the tournament and Alex Hales has not lived up to his billing. Hales is undecided, apparently, about whether he will travel to Pakistan for the showpieces.
With the ball Mohammad Sami - yes, he's still going - is their attack leader. He has ten wickets. Faheem Ashraf is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
They are mighty short on the outright, however, with a decent chunk of money to lay at [3.1]. It is far from the worst bet in the world to take them on. Very, very few teams are worthy of such prices in franchise cricket.
Quetta Gladiators [6.8] - Powerful batters but poor with the ball
Quetta are the curiosity of this year's PSL. Two games ago they looked likely to top the table and firmly justify the favourite's tag. No mean feat considering they have had to cope with the disappointment of Rashid Khan, the Afghan leggie genius, not turning up.
They lost their final two outings in the group section. One of them was a stunning implosion against Lahore, who have been hopeless and deservedly finished bottom.
It is their bowling which fails to convince. Jofra Archer played twice, John Hastings three times and likewise the excellent Aussie Ben Laughlin. Throw in the loss of Mahmudullah to Bangladesh and they appear to be unsettled. Indeed they have defended once out of four. So there's a strategy for you.
Shane Watson is man of the tournament so far. And they are a team which relies on power rather than plans. To that end, Jason Roy has arrived to try to blow teams out of the water. Just as well as Kevin Pietersen has retired before the play-offs.
Watson and Roy are also expected to miss out. Reports are emerging that of their foreign players only Archer is willing to go to Pakistan. As a result they have signed Tom Kohler Cadmore from Yorkshire and West Indian Johnson Charles.
Peshawar Zalmi [7.6] - Reigning champs will be at home in playoffs
Zalmi got up just in the nick of time to qualify. They won their last two to give themselves an even money record having lost their previous three. So we couldn't exactly describe them as reliable.
It was their batsmen who pressed the boost button. Against Lahore they chased 173 - the best of the tournament - and previously against Karachi they posted 181. Kamran Akmal whacked a ton against Lahore and also notched a 50 against the Kings.
Those scores propelled him to the top of the runscorer lists. Before they had been leaning on Mohammad Hafeez and Dwayne Smith. To be frank, we wouldn't want to be betting on any franchise who put so much faith on these two.
Still, Zalmi are the champs and they will feel right at home in the cut and thrust of the playoffs. Not to mention feeling happy in Pakistan for the business end. Last year they were aided by Quetta players ditching their team because of security fears in Pakistan. Zalmi's crew are all likely to stick together. Initial reports suggest all of their international stars will go. They look to be overrated at the odds.