The HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2023 saw an end to its league stage and is all ready to host four playoff matches, starting Wednesday.
With Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans topping the table, the first playoff will see Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan face off in a battle to get direct entry into the final of the event on March 19 at the iconic Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United were the other two teams to make it into the top four. They will clash on Thursday, in Eliminator 1, to get entry into Eliminator 2, where they will face the loser of the qualifier between Lahore and Multan.
The high intensity drama of the league games saw Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators lose seven and win only three matches apiece to finish on the fifth and sixth position, and out of the playoff phase.
The HBL PSL8 was a rollercoaster ride of 30 matches, starting from February 13 and ending on March 12, nearly a full month of cricket entertainment.
When it comes to biggest victory by runs, Lahore Qalandars take the credit for beating Islamabad United by a mammoth 119 runs in the 26th match of the league. After putting up a 226-run total, Lahore dismissed a power-packed Islamabad batting line-up for just 107 runs.
In terms of biggest win by wickets, Multan Sultans beat Quetta Gladiators by nine wickets to set the record in their name. Chasing a paltry 111 runs for victory, Multan chased the target with nine wickets in hand and 39 balls to spare, courtesy a blazing 78 off 42 balls by Rilee Rossouw.
Talking about margins, the nearest a team got to victory and then lost the match was Multan Sultans in the tournament opener of the HBL PSL8. Multan were chasing 176 runs to win, but a clinical last over from Zaman Khan saw him defend 15 runs off the last over.
Islamabad are next on the list of chasing down targets with only two wickets left in the bag. In the 21st match of the HBL PSL8, United were chasing 180 to win, and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf came to their rescue, holding the fort with his sensible 39 off 31 balls to take the team past the finish line.
For their second two-wicket win, Faheem was once again asked to finish the job while chasing 206 runs, and so he did, with a scintillating 51 off 26 balls courtesy two sixes and five fours.
Big and small numbers
The highest total of the HBL PSL8 was 262 runs, scored by Multan Sultans on a batting friendly Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium track against Quetta Gladiators. The 27-year-old Usman Khan played a 120-run part off just 43 balls to take Multan to the biggest total across all HBL PSLs.
The Multan-Quetta match etched another record of the highest match aggregate after Quetta replied with 253 runs. A total of 515 runs were scored in the match.
In terms of extras given in a single HBL PSL8 match, Karachi gave away 19 runs: two byes, four leg byes, 10 wides and three no balls, in their match against Lahore.
But the record for most wides in an innings, 13, was matched in three matches. Islamabad bowled 13 against Lahore on February 27, Multan versus Islamabad United on February 19, and Peshawar did the same when facing Lahore on February 26.
Batters and bowlers
Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan has 483 runs in the 10 matches he played, making his the highest scorer after the league stage of the HBL PSL8. He is followed by Peshawar captain Babar Azam on 416.
Interestingly, the third person on the list in Karachi captain Imad Wasim with 404 runs, who plays as an all-rounder and not as a specialist batter. Apart from that, he also comes down the order at the number five or six positions, unlike Rizwan and Babar who open the innings for their respective franchises.
English batter Jason Roy has the highest individual score of 145 not out in the HBL PSL8 till now, where he helped Quetta chase a 241-run target. Meanwhile, there were only three five-fors throughout the 30 league matches: Ihsanullah’s 5-12 in four overs, Shaheen’s 5-40 in 24 balls, while Abbas’ 5-47 in his full quota.
In terms of wickets, Multan’s Abbas Afridi is at the top on the list with 22 scalps from nine matches. He is followed by another Multan pacer Ihsanullah with 20 wickets in 10 matches, while Afghan spinner Rashid Khan is third on the list with 15 from eight outings.
Keepers and catchers
Apart from bowling and batting, the man behind the wickets and the outfielders also played an important role in the HBL PSL8.
In the wicketkeeping department, Lahore’s Sam Billings and Multan’s Rizwan were outstanding behind the stumps with 11 dismissals each. Both keeper-batters took 11 catches behind the wickets in their team’s successful journeys to the playoff stage. Billing, however, did it in seven matches, while Rizwan did in 10 outings.
In a single game, the most dismissals by a keeper came from Haseebullah Khan (four catches against Peshawar), which was matched by Billings (four catches against Lahore).
Meanwhile, West Indian Keiron Pollard was the man with the safest hands in the outfield, cupping 11 catches for Multan in nine matches. Next on the list are Karachi’s Irfan Khan with seven catches in eight matches, while Islamabad captain Shadab Khan also safely held seven in his 10 games that he played.
The most catches taken in a single innings by an outfield player were three, bagged by Karachi’s Irfan against Quetta.
Partnerships are an important aspect, even in the shortest T20 format, as they can make or break an innings.
The highest partnership in terms of runs came between Peshawar’s Babar and opener Saim Ayub as the piled up 162 runs for the first wicket against Quetta.
Usman Khan and Mohammad Rizwan are second on the list with a 157-run partnership, for the first wicket, against Quetta.
Meanwhile, Babar and Tom Kohler-Cadmore piled up 139 runs against Karachi for the third wicket to get the third spot on the list.
In the batting order, most runs scored by a pair for the second wicket were between Lahore’s Fakhar Zaman and Kamran Ghulam (122).
Islamabad’s Faheem and Azam Khan scored 125 for the best fourth-wicket partnership, Karachi’s Shoaib Malik and Imad managed 131 for the fifth wicket. The best 10th wicket partnership came between Lahore’s Sikandar Raza and Zaman Khan, where they scored 23 runs against Quetta.
Top 3 moments from league phase
Babar’s maiden ton
Babar Azam's century against Quetta in the eighth edition of the HBL PSL was a masterclass in batting. His fluent stroke play and impeccable timing left the opposition bowlers reeling, as he scored at a brisk pace throughout his innings.
What made his century even more special was the fact that he had targeted it before the HBL PSL8 even started, and then went on to deliver on his promise. His opening 162-run partnership with Saim was a testament to their exceptional teamwork, as they kept the scoreboard ticking with ease.
Babar's century was a treat for cricket fans all over the world, as they witnessed one of the finest batters in action. His ability to find gaps in the field, play both attacking and defensive shots, and keep the bowlers on their toes was a sight to behold.
It is performances like these that make Babar Azam one of the most exciting players in world cricket today. His contribution to Peshawar's total of 240 was invaluable, and it set the stage for a thrilling match. Fans will undoubtedly be eagerly waiting to see more of Babar's magic in the playoffs.
Usman Khan’s fireworks
Usman Khan's exceptional performance in the HBL PSL 2023 has certainly made him one of the most exciting prospects in Pakistan cricket. His innings of 120 runs off just 43 balls was not only a match-winning effort but also a record-breaking one.
Usman's ability to hit the ball out of the park with ease and score boundaries at will was a treat for cricket fans. His 36-ball century was the fastest in the history of the HBL PSL and it showcased his exceptional hitting skills.
What was even more impressive was that Usman was given his first chance as an opener for Multan and he proved his worth with his blistering innings. His knock not only helped his team secure a crucial victory but also cemented his place in the side.
Usman's performance is a testament to the talent that exists in Pakistan cricket. With his impressive skills and fearless approach, he has the potential to become one of the leading batters in the country. His innings will be remembered for a long time by fans and pundits alike, and it has certainly put him on the map as one to watch out for in the future.
Roy roars loudest
HBL PSL8 has been an exciting tournament for cricket fans around the world, and in one particular match, Quetta Gladiators were able to secure a confidence-boosting victory thanks to the stunning performance of Jason Roy.
Royseemed to thrive in the Rawalpindi conditions as he played a crucial role in securing his team's victory against Peshawar. Quetta had their work cut out for them as they were set a daunting target of 241 to chase by the Babar-led Peshawar team.
However, Roy was not intimidated by the challenge and played a brilliant innings that included 20 fours and five sixes. He remained unbeaten on 145 runs and took Quetta past the finish line successfully, securing one of their three victories in the tournament.
Roy's innings was a masterclass in risk-free and calculated hitting, and he displayed great skill and composure at the crease. His performance will surely go down as one of the highlights of the 2023 HBL PSL and will be remembered by cricket fans for years to come.
It is worth noting that Asian cricketers have historically performed well in Pakistan, but Roy's innings showed that players from other parts can also excel in these conditions.
is the number of wins bagged by Lahore Qalandars as they topped the HBL PSL8 table with 14 points.
is the number of defeats suffered by Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators in HBL PSL8, pushing them out of playoffs.
Qualifier: Lahore to beat Multan
Eliminator 1: Islamabad to beat Peshawar
Eliminator 2: Multan to beat Islamabad
Final: Multan to beat Lahore and win HBL PSL8.