Multan Sultans began their title defence in style, brushing aside Karachi Kings in the tournament opener on Thursday night. They took their time in getting to the 125-run target but the match was effectively over ever since their veteran leggie Imran Tahir had demolished Karachi batting in the first innings of the day.
The only time Multan’s victory was in doubt was when Karachi’s Babar Azam (23) and Sharjeel Khan (43) were batting and had given their side a 66-run stand for the opening wicket. Tahir dismissed Sharjeel and then took care of Mohammad Nabi and Tom Lammonby to leave Karachi innings in tatters.
In the run chase, Multan top three all found runs, but their skipper extraordinaire Mohammad Rizwan again stood out with an unbeaten 52.
A warning has been fired at the rest of the league. Tahir, at nearly 43, is still a force, and Sultans, even with the added pressure of being defending champions, are unperturbed.
Last year, Lahore Qalandars were expected to build upon their 2020 campaign when they made the finals opposite Karachi Kings but they failed to live up to expectations and missed the playoffs.
There is a change in leadership as superstar pacer Shaheen Afridi has replaced Sohail Akhtar. They’ve recruited England’s Phil Salt and Harry Brook, while a bunch of their overseas players have re-signed, including Rashid Khan, Samit Patel and Ben Dunk.
Tim David has left for Multan and that could be a major setback. And so would be the departure of James Faulkner, who now plays for Quetta Gladiators.
Lahore lost both their matches to Multan last year and must now be keen to correct that record.