Islamabad United v Peshawar Zalmi
Thursday 17 February, 14:30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Hales loss a blow
Islamabad United have suffered a major dent to their tile hopes - and of finish-ing in the top two - with the withdrawal of Alex Hales for personal reasons.
Having notched 255 runs, Hales was the top scoring overseas batter. With Rahmanullah Gurbaz also leaving for Afghanistan duty it means United have lost their early-season first-choice top three. Paul Stirling departed for Ireland duty last week.
Will Jacks, the Surrey hitter, has replaced Hales. This game could come too soon for him with quarantine rules still in place. Youngster Muhammad Akhlaq may open.
Possible XI: Akhlaq, Munro, Shadab, Azam, Asif Ali, Faheem, Dawson, Hasan Ali, Wasim, Zeeshan, De Lange
Zalmi inspired by Haris
Zalmi have lost two players to Covid. Arshad Iqbal has been replaced by Imran Butt and Kamran Akmal's spot has gone to bespectacled opener Imam-ul-Haq.
Neither are significant absences. They have plenty of options with bat and ball, although they would prefer if Liam Livingstone took a game by the scruff of the neck. He made a duck on his last outing.
Mohammad Haris has been a revelation in the opening slot and he was rapid again in the success over Quetta last time. Shoaib Malik and Hussain Talat have renewed their effective middle-order partnership.
Possible XI: Zazai, Haris, Livingstone, Shoaib Malik, Talat, Cutting, Rutherford, Wahab, Qadir, Irshad, Umar
The Lahore pitch has proved to be good for batters. Well, for those batting first at least. Only twice in seven have both teams busted 170 or more now, although Kings-Sultans looked likely to be the third in Wednesday's match.
That has meant a rethink by Sportsbook. They now go 6/5 that both bust 170, 9/4 180 and 10/3 190. It may be time to start hitting these prices again. Bet the markets here.
United too short
Islamabad early doors looked like genuine contenders to Sultans. But they have lost their way and a fast start has slowed. Allowing Kings to get within one run of a big chase was a worrying sign.
The player drain is unlikely to boost confidence. And they don't look much fun here at 1.845/6. If the prices hold it could well be worth getting with Zalmi batting first at 2.1011/10. A simple trade could be on the cards with run rates so high in first dig.
With the potential for every United batter moving up a slot, there are value options. Asif Ali could bat at No 4. So 11/2 has appeal. Likewise Azam Khan at 6s.
Perhaps the standout price is Faheem Ashraf at 20s. He has been in terrific hitting form and United should be desperate to get him in as quickly as possible. Colin Munro has been boosted to 11/4.
For Zalmi, Livingstone has been boosted to 7/2. Ben Cutting, so destructive last time out against Quetta, might be promoted above Sherfane Rutherford, so 18s has appeal. Rutherford did top in the previous meeting though and is 11/1. Bet the markets here.
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