Multan Sultans v Islamabad United
Sunday 20 February 14.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Multan are guaranteed to finish in top spot. They will be afforded two bites at the cherry to reach the final.
Whether they rest players here remains to be seen. One suspects not. The brains trust should be aware of the dangers of players losing rhythm. The calibration of a winning team is not something to be messed with.
David Willey, who is having an excellent season, has come back into the side at the expense of Blessing Muzrabani.
Last time out they amassed 245 against Quetta with Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood in great touch with the bat.
Possible XI: Masood, Rizwan, Rossouw, Khushdil, David, Azmat, Willey, Asif, Raees, Tahir, Dahani
Islamabad United should be grateful for that Sultans surge against Quetta. It probably means that even defeat here will see them qualify for the play-offs. They have a two-point lead over Quetta but superior run rate.
They are in a bit of a state. United have lost three of their last four having been the team to watch at one stage.
There is no Alex Hales or Paul Stirling while Shadab Khan, who appears to have picked up an injury, Colin Munro and Hasan Ali have disappeared from the line-up. Faheem Ashraf has been skipper. Shadab is their top wicket-taker and second-highest runscorer behind Hales.
In defeat by Lahore they batted bowler Mohammad Wasim at No 3, despite boasting the striking ability of Azam Khan and Asif Ali. Will Jacks, a replacement for Rahmanullah Gurbaz, should be available,
Possible XI: Mubasir, Jacks, Munro, Danish Aziz, Azam, Asif Ali, Dawson, Faheem, De Lange, Wasim, Waqas
The first-innings scores so far in Lahore read (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second): 197-1/149-1/245-2/206-1/174-2/185-1/191-1/141-1/193-1/199-2/182-/182-1.
The trend for runs has continued from Karachi, although there has been a strong bias for the team batting first to go big. The chaser has struggled and 'both to score more than...' has not been a value strategy.
Nor has the chase bias held. This is a bat-first venue and that has been a trend buster. Going over the par line in the first dig is the best bet with Multan.
United need to bat first
Multan are 1.674/6 about another victory and that's not a bad price. Given the United form and personnel problems one would have expected them to be shorter.
If they bat first, Masood and Rizwan, who have more than 900 runs between them can quickly get those odds down.
With the bias as the way it is, United have to bat first. That is the only possibility for getting with them or a trade. They have the potential to make it a choice affair by the break.
Rizwan has been boosted to top 9/4 for top Multan bat with Masood 13/5. Rossouw, purely because he is penned in for No 3, catches the eye at 9/2. There should be value all over the shop in the United top-bat prices but Sportsbook have it covered. The only one that stands out is Azam Khan at 6s. Bet Sportsbook markets here.
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