Ed Hawkins previews a potential thriller in the Pakistan Super League from the Gadaffi Stadium on Sunday
"The Sultans have already qualified for the rejigged knockouts with a record of five wins from six completed matches.
But this is where they could get nervous"
Lahore Qalandars v Multan Sultans
Sunday 15 March, 08:00
TV: live on Betfair Video
The Qalandars are considered the joke outfit of the Pakistan Super League. They have a win percentage of 30 and have never finished higher than fifth. Yet with four wins from nine they have a nosebleed and could make the semi-finals.
Such a turnaround shouldn't be hailed as heroic. It is far harder to pick a squad and tactics that consistently bottom feeds than makes a play-off charge. The Qalandars are an outlier in that regard and baffle the analysts who understand the percentage chances of a team being so consistently poor.
Before recording a well under-par 150 in Karachi against the Kings to slump to a loss, the Qalandars had won three-in-a-row. Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn, their much-heralded blitzers up top, have found form.
Things could be turning their way. Not only will the final be played at their home venue but they are yet to suffer any overseas departures because of Covid-19.
Probable XI Sohail, Fakhar, Lynn, Dunk, Hafeez, S Patel, Wiese, Dilbar, Shaheen, Rauf, Faizan.
Cobras have no bite
The Sultans are top of the pile. Who'd have thunk it considering their approach to data and employing three separate analysts? One of whom you can hear talk on Cricket...Only Bettor below about in-game strategy.
The Sultans have already qualified for the rejigged knockouts with a record of five wins from six completed matches.
But this is where they could get nervous. A loss of momentum, the realisation that one bad day at the office could bring their hopes crashing down.
It has happened many times before in franchise leagues across the world, most recently in the Caribbean Premier League and Big Bash. The runaway leaders have lost their mojo.
Alas for Sultans, they have also lost key players - another characteristic of league winners and eventual losers. James Vince and Rilee Rossouw, the backbone of their batting, have gone home. Moeen Ali needs to step up. They needed their admittedly excellent bowling attack to get them out of a hole against Peshawar on Friday.
Probable XI Nazir, Ashraf, Masood, Moeen, Bopara, Khushdil, Afridi, Tanvir, Shafiq, Irfan, Tahir
Toss bias alert
The Gadaffi Stadium has been full of runs this edition. The first-innings scores (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second) read: 187-2/187-2/98-2/198-2/209-1/182-1/164-2/138-2. Going overs 180 is a wager, then with fingers tightly crossed that you might be able to pinch [1.91].
Hosts a trade
Early bird prices have the Sultans at [1.75]. It doesn't look to be out of kilter with their record as you would expect because of the loss of Vince and Rossouw. It suggests Lahore will settle at around [2.30] mark. Possibly as big as [2.40].
Well, that's pre-toss at least. The flip will change everything. With a heavy toss bias throughout the tournament and, in particular at this venue (six of last eight won by the chaser), we could well see close to a choice affair if the hosts, who have won their last three at home, get to go after a target.
It's tempting to pencil in [2.10] about Lahore with the flip on our side. At the very least they should trade as skinnier favourites, opening up the option for a trade. They should relish taking on a depleted Multan batting line-up and pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf could unsettle the leaders.
Cricket...Only Bettor: how the Multan Sultans are dominating with data
When these sides met earlier in the tournament, Sultans won by five wickets chasing 139 and reaching their target off the first ball of the 17th. What was interesting was how they played Shaheen Afridi. They didn't play a stroke against him and the left-arm pacer didn't concede a boundary. Do Multan do that again or do they have to attack?
The approach suggests, rightly, they fear his darts. And with new ball and old Afrid's threat could make him a wager on the top bowler market. Sportsbook are likely to go around the 11/4 mark.
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Trade Lahore batting second [2.10] to [1.60]