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LAHORE: Lahore Qalandars will have an opportunity make history when they will take on Multan Sultans in the opening match of the HBL-Pakistan Super League-8 at the picturesque Multan Cricket Stadium on Monday (February 13).

More than 36 foreign players representing 10 T20I playing countries will be in action in the 34-day, 34-match tournament. T20 World Cup winners Adil Rashid and Matthew Wade, along with Wanindu Hasaranga, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Jimmy Neesham and Tabraiz Shamsi will make their debuts.

Opening ceremony of the event will be held in Multan on 13th February prior to the tournament opener between 2021 winners Multan Sultans and defending champions Lahore Qalandars; closing ceremony and final on 19th March in Lahore, which will also host play-offs

Lahore Qalandars had defeated defending champions Multan Sultans at the Gaddafi Stadium by 42 runs in 2022, and will now have an additional incentive going into the eighth edition of the tournament, with the chance of becoming the first franchise to win back to back titles.

Prior to Multan Sultans, Peshawar Zalmi were in the similar situation when they reached the 2018 final as defending champions but faltered at the last hurdle and lost to Islamabad United, who clinched their second title in three years. Except for Peshawar Zalmi and Multan Sultans, no other side as defending champions have reached the final in the biggest, highly competitive and most grueling league in the cricket playing world.

Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi will share between them the 34-match tournament, and the event schedule has been designed in such a way that the four home sides will each play five matches in front of their fans and supporters – one against each side. This means Qalandars will play five matches at the Gaddafi Stadium, while their other five matches will be in Multan (one) and, Karachi and Rawalpindi (two each). Similarly, Sultans’ five away matches will be in Rawalpindi (three) and, Karachi and Lahore (one each); Kings’ away matches will be in Rawalpindi (three) and, one each in Lahore and Multan; and United’s five away matches will be in Karachi (three) and, one each in Lahore and Multan. Quetta Gladiators will play their 10 league matches in Karachi, Rawalpindi (four each), Lahore and Multan (one each), while Peshawar Zalmi’s fixtures will be in Rawalpindi (five), Karachi (three), and one each in Lahore and Multan.

The HBL PSL 8 will be held in two legs with Multan Cricket Stadium and National Bank Cricket Arena splitting matches from February 13-26 before the action shifts to the Gaddafi Stadium and Pindi Cricket Stadium where the matches will be played from 26th February to 19th March. This includes the Qualifier, two Eliminators and the final at the home of Pakistan cricket from 15-19 March.

The soft launch of the Pakistan Women’s League will also take place during the HBL PSL 8 when three exhibition matches will be played in the lead up to the men’s matches in Rawalpindi on 8, 10 and 11 March. The two women’s sides are expected to comprise leading local and foreign players, details of which will be announced in due course.

Chair of PCB Management Committee, Najam Sethi said, “The HBL PSL 8 will be a massive event for the PCB, taking place at the four iconic venues with the world’s best T20 cricketers in action. We aim to make the HBL PSL bigger, better and stronger than ever before with the overarching ambition to make it the first-choice event for leading T20 cricketers. Each of the six sides will enter the HBL PSL 8 with lots at stake. Islamabad United will aim to become the most successful team with three titles; Lahore Qalandars will attempt to become the first side to win back to back titles and the remaining four teams will once again attempt to put a hand on the glittering silverware. This makes up for an exciting, enthralling and entertaining 34-match tournament.”

He said there will be no question on the quality of cricket that will be played in over 34 days of action-packed cricket. He hoped that the event will once again live up to its expectations of unearthing and identifying future stars who will not only challenge the established household names in this edition but will go on to represent Pakistan.

He expressed gratitude to HBL, who have supported this tournament since its inception in 2016 by retaining the title sponsorship rights. “May the best side lift the most prestigious Trophy of the Pakistan cricket calendar at the home of Pakistan cricket on 19th March,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the request of the franchises, the PCB has agreed to increase the number of players per side to 20, allowing each franchise to pick two additional supplementary players. The supplementary players will be picked in the Replacement Draft, which will take place on 24th January.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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