PSL-Dean Jones
A giant cutout of Dean Jones, the departed head coach of Karachi Kings, keeps a watch as their mentor Wasim Akram is in a reflective mood in Karachi on Saturday. Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: A ‘larger-than-life’ Dean Jones kept watch as the play-offs of Pakistan Super League (PSL) got under way at the Karachi’s National Stadium on Saturday. In an unique tribute to their departed head coach, Karachi Kings took the ground with a lifesize cutout of the Australian great while their players and members of rivals Multan Sultans formed a ‘D’ in what was a poignant moment before the first of the play-offs started after a break of eight months due to the pandemic.

‘Deano,’ a journeyman and a popular TV pundit who succumbed to a heart attack in Mumbai while working with the IPL broadcasters in September, had a strong relationship with the PSL. He was the coach of Islamabad United when they won the title twice in 2016 and 2018 before moving onto the Karachi franchise for the 2020 season. Led by Babar Azam, the team made the final of the tournament when they pipped Multan Sultans in the Qualifier via Super Over in the early game on Saturday.

Electing to field first, Karachi restricted Multan to 141 for seven with former England allrounder Ravi Bopara scoring a brisk 40 off 31 deliveries. Opening the innings with Sharjeel Khan, Pakistan’s newly appointed Test captain was at his best - scoring 65 off 53 balls (five fours, two sixes). However, Karachi’s lower order batting failed to take their team home and ended at 141 for eight to make the match a ‘tie’ off the last ball - taking the match to a Super Over.

The league ran through February-March this year despite the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had to stall the proceedings in the eleventh hour (the morning of the play-offs, to be precise) when one of the overseas players was suspected to have contacted the virus.

With the world of sport coming to a grinding halt, the PCB initially contemplated declaring the winner of the tournament based on the league standings but in early-July, they revealed that they plan to complete the season in November. Karachi Kings, Multan Sultans, Peshawar Zalmi and Lahore Qalanders qualified for the play-offs out of eix teams.

Lahore have included fast bowler Salman Irshad in place of all-rounder Agha Salman, who has been ruled out of the play-offs due to an ankle injury. Peshawar Zalmi have replaced injured pacer Hasan Ali with Mohammad Imran for the playoffs.

Earlier, South African fast bowler Wayne Parnell replaced Mitchell McCleneghan, who is unavailable due to Covid-19 enforced restrictions in New Zealand, in the Karachi squad.

Batsman Sohaib Maqsood comes in place of Daren Sammy, who was unable to travel to Pakistan in time for the first eliminator due to logistical constraints, in the Peshawar Zalmi squad.

Bangladesh T20I skipper Mahmudullah and James Vince tested positive for coronavirus in their pre-departure tests and were ruled out of the showpiece event. Zimbabwe wicketkeeper batsman Brendan Taylor and England’s Joe Denly were named as the replacement for Vince and Mahmudullah in the Multan Sultans squad.

PSL 2020 play-offs schedule

Qualifier I (Saturday): Karachi Kings beat Multan Sultan in Super Over to reach final.

Eliminator (Saturday): Peshawar Zalmi vs Lahore Qalanders, played later.

Qualifier II (Sunday): Winner of Eliminator 1 vs Loser of Qualifier I.

November 17 (Tuesday): Winner of Qualifier vs Winner of Eliminator 2.