No margin for error as Peshawar and Islamabad clash in Thursday’s first Eliminator

Peshawar Zalmi v Islamabad United  

Pakistan Super League Eliminator 1, February 24 

Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore 

(2.30pm UK)

It is crunch time for Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United, the third and fourth-placed teams from the group stage. 

The loser goes home and the winner moves to an effective semi-final on Friday against either Lahore or Multan.

Zalmi are the favourites for this one, at 4/6 with Betfred, while Spreadex have United at 13/10. 

That owes much to the men in yellow winning their last three group games, including Monday’s Super Over success in the final group fixture against Lahore, and the reds of United losing their last three.

Peshawar may finally hit the wall following spate of overseas departures

Peshawar have lost five overseas players to injury and unavailability in the last fortnight, most recently Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting earlier this week having tested positive for Coronavirus. 

Liam Livingstone and Tom Kohler-Cadmore have also both departed through injury, Saqib Mahmood through international commitments and Sherfane Rutherford due to family reasons.

It leaves them with a sizeable task to extend their three-game winning run to four, even factoring in the last minute addition of Gloucestershire all-rounder Benny Howell.

Spinner Usman Qadir has also tested positive for Coronavirus and misses out. 

Don’t get me wrong, Islamabad are not without their issues. 

Alex Hales has departed due to bubble fatigue, while Pakistan international seamer Hassan Ali is a fitness concern.

But they should have captain and star all-rounder Shadab Khan back after missing the last three games with a groin injury. 

Here is a leg-spinner who is the competition’s current leading wicket-taker with 17 from seven games, playing three games fewer than the next five best bowlers. He is also inside the top 12 leading run-scorer’s with 232. 

Talismanic is the perfect description, and he could really give his side – who, incidentally, have the best kit in the competition in my opinion – a timely boost.

Factor in the inclusion of Surrey’s Will Jacks, who will debut after flying in from Bangladesh, where he has playing in their T20 Premier League and finished as the competition’s leading run-scorer with 414, and Spreadex’s 13/10 shot for Islamabad to advance looks more appealing.

Jacks to hit ground running and continue six-hitting spree

Will Jacks arrives from Bangladesh, where he has been playing for Chattogram Challengers in the BPL. Not only did he finish as the competition’s leading run-scorer, he also hit the second highest tally of sixes – 19 across 11 games.

Islamabad’s new man is currently at 8/1 with bet365 to hit the most sixes in this match. 

Those are odds I would be happy to take for a player who is closing in on 100 career T20 sixes and once smashed six of them in an over for Surrey in a pre-season friendly against Lancashire.