The Rich History of the Pakistan Super League

Ahead of the start of PSL 7, we look back at some memorable moments from the first six seasons.

It is not an exaggeration that Pakistan Super League is currently the most popular local brand in Pakistan. This brand has faced many existential threats over the years, but the PSL has also shown a steely determination to keep on growing and establish itself as an elite T20 league at the international stage. As the 2022 PSL season is close to its starting date, it is time to revisit the illustrious history of past PSL seasons.

PSL 2016: Islamabad United replicate 1992 World Cup heroics

Pakistan in 1992 had their backs to the wall and won their last five games to lift the trophy. Islamabad United in 2016 had their backs to the wall and won their last five games to lift the trophy. Pakistan in 1992 lost 3 out of their first 5 games, and it would have been 4 defeats out of 5 if it wasn’t for rain. Islamabad in 2016 lost 4 out of their first 6 games. Pakistan in 1992 defeated New Zealand and England in knockouts who dominated the group stages. Islamabad in 2016 defeated Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators in knockouts who dominated the group stages.

Unforgettable moments of PSL 2016

  • Ravi Bopara vs. Lahore Qalandars in Sharjah: Ravi Bopara scored 71* (43) and took six wickets as Karachi Kings defeated Lahore Qalandars in a vital match for the top 4 race. It remains arguably the best ever individual performance in PSL history.
  • Quetta Gladiators vs. Lahore Qalandars in Dubai: Lahore Qalandars score 201. Quetta Gladiators lost eight wickets but finally completed the chase via a last-ball boundary by Mohammad Nabi when three runs were needed off the last ball.
  • Peshawar Zalmi vs. Quetta Gladiators (1st Qualifier): Quetta Gladiators won by 1 run to defend 133 and qualify for the PSL final. Aizaz Cheema defended 3 off 3 balls in the final over.

PSL 2017: A tournament packed with nail biters but Peshawar dominate final against unlucky Quetta

When it comes to the actual quality of cricket being played in the Pakistan Super League, the 2017 edition can make a strong claim of being the best among all PSL editions. There was an unprecedented number of close games, and the top 4 race was an absolute thriller. Karachi Kings made a woeful start. Islamabad United were rocked via losses of Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif due to the spot-fixing scandal. Lahore Qalandars looked rejuvenated with the arrival of Brendon McCullum as they made a decent start but collapsed at the end. Karachi Kings bounced back strongly in the second half of the tournament, but they fell short against Peshawar Zalmi. The final became a damp squib as some foreign stars of Quetta refused to tour Lahore due to security concerns, but we should not forget that this tournament was an absolute treat.

Unforgettable moments of PSL 2017

PSL 2018: Islamabad United set new standards of dominance as Luke Ronchi bullies teams for fun

Islamabad United picked Luke Ronchi in the draft, and it turned out to be a tournament-winning pick. The Kiwi wicket-keeper entered PSL in good form, and once he found his rhythm, he absolutely demolished oppositions. Defending Champions Peshawar Zalmi lost 5 out of the first 8 games, but they won the next 4 consecutive games to face Islamabad United in the final. Peshawar put up a good fight but ultimately lost the final. 2018 also saw the birth of Multan Sultans, who were top of the table during the first half of the tournament but collapsed in the second half with four consecutive defeats to finish fifth.

Unforgettable moments of PSL 2018

PSL 2019: Quetta Gladiators persistence pays off as they finally lift PSL Trophy

Quetta kept on falling agonizingly short in previous seasons, but in 2019, Shane Watson inspired them to go all the way without any major hiccups. The Gladiators’ charge to PSL trophy was done in dominating fashion. Only Peshawar Zalmi kept pace with Quetta in the points table, but in all head-to-head encounters, Quetta proved to be too strong. It must be remembered that Peshawar Zalmi significantly defied expectations as the popular pre-tournament opinion was that they have picked an unimpressive squad. Despite having stronger squads on paper, Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars were unimpressive in PSL 2019. It just showed the charm of PSL that having popular names is not enough as you also need to play with the right strategies.

Unforgettable moments in PSL 2019

  • Lahore Qalandars vs. Multan Sultans in Sharjah: An iconic chase of 201 where AB de Villiers and David Wiese rocked the show in the death overs.
  • Karachi Kings vs. Quetta Gladiators in Karachi: Chasing 191, Quetta needed 5 of 6 balls with 6 wickets in hand but lost. Usman Shinwari conceded 41 off his first three overs but defended five runs in the last over as he took three wickets.
  • Quetta Gladiators vs. Peshawar Zalmi (1st Qualifier): Shane Watson made himself famous via his bowling as he bowled after ten months to cover up for injured Fawad Ahmed in the last over to seal a thriller in Quetta’s favor.

PSL 2020: Karachi Kings change head coach and meet old expectations of being Champions.

For the first 4 PSL seasons, Karachi Kings’ team management suffered a lot of criticism for not playing the right team combinations, and fans grilled senior players for lack of aggressive intent. All that changed in 2020 as Karachi Kings brought in Dean Jones as Head Coach, who had the experience of two PSL trophy wins with Islamabad United. Karachi Kings refused to bundle under pressure and kept their nerves during the business end of the season.

The 2020 PSL season will also be remembered for Lahore Qalandars’ epic run to the final. Lahore lost 4 out of their first 5 games, and it looked as if they would finish last again. However, they went on an unprecedented run of 6 wins out of 7 to reach the final, but they fell short against a Babar Azam-inspired Karachi Kings. The late Dean Jones will always be remembered as a legendary coach by PSL fans. An honorable mention for Multan Sultans, too, as they pleasantly surprised fans by finishing top of group stages for the first time but couldn’t carry on with the same momentum in knockout stages that happened after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown break.

Unforgettable moments in PSL 2020

  • Islamabad United vs. Lahore Qalandars in Lahore: A world record 10th-wicket partnership in T20 history during a successful chase by Ahmed Safi Abdullah and Musa Khan for Islamabad United as they shocked Lahore.
  • Lahore Qalandars vs. Karachi Kings in Lahore: Lahore was in dire straits against their arch-rivals in front of Lahori fans, and a humiliating defeat was looking likely. Ben Dunk had other ideas as he played an innings for Lahore that Pakistanis will never forget.
  • Karachi Kings vs. Multan Sultans (1st Qualifier): Karachi dominated most of the game, but Multan made a late comeback to force a Super Over. Sherfane Rutherford and Mohammad Amir were the match-winners for the Kings in the Super Over.

PSL 2021: Multan Sultans rise from the dead and script fairytale comeback

One win and four defeats in the first five games. This was statistically even worse than Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup. Then we saw a change in strategy by Multan as they took a risk to play a long tail. The gamble worked for Multan as they now had a potent bowling attack, and senior batsmen soaked up the pressure to protect the long tail. Multan won 6 out of the next 7 games, including a stunning defeat of favorites Islamabad United in Qualifiers and overpowering Peshawar Zalmi in the final. Islamabad United set a new PSL record of 8 wins in group stages but wilted under pressure against Multan and Peshawar in knockouts. Furthermore, we saw Lahore Qalandars win 5 out of the first 6 games but then had an unprecedented collapse to lose the next 4 games and finish 5th in the points table. 

Unforgettable moments in PSL 2021

  • Peshawar Zalmi vs. Quetta Gladiators in Karachi: A game that was in Quetta’s control till 37 overs, but Peshawar ran away with victory at the death. Peshawar chased a mammoth 199 despite being behind for most of the game.
  • Islamabad United vs. Lahore Qalandars at Abu Dhabi: Islamabad were down at 20-5. Then, a 123-run partnership between Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed took them to 152/7. Lahore were comfortable at 86/2 in 10 overs, but they crashed to 124 all out via Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, and Fawad Ahmed’s wickets.
  • Islamabad United vs. Peshawar Zalmi in Abu Dhabi: To date, the highest-scoring match in PSL history. A match full of boundaries and sixes. Islamabad scored a mammoth 247/2. Peshawar made a great effort in the chase but fell short by just 15 runs in the end.
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