PSL weekly round-up: Sultans supremacy and mystery spinners galore

Mohammad Rizwan goes for a sweep PSL

The PSL enters its business end with Lahore Qalandars really committing to the bit, still awaiting their first win in a season that, for them, is just about done and dusted. Bitter rivals Karachi Kings will thank them for that, because it conceals their own lack of improvements. Some unusual spinners have been unearthed and Multan Sultans have been so good it's slightly boring.

Sultans supremacy

The Sultans rank third on the overall wins table at the PSL, and if that doesn't seem remarkable, it should. They started out two full seasons late, and yet just two other teams boast more wins than their 43, with their win-loss ratio of 1.535 comparing very favourably with teams in the other big franchise leagues (IPL, BBL, CPL, SA20, T20 Blast, the Hundred, BPL and LPL). In fact, it's pushing up to top-10 levels. And it's because every year, they seem to put together the sort of season they're having now.

Mohammad Rizwan's captaincy, from his charisma to his tactics, is unmatched across the league. A set-up that blends local with foreign coaches, and more groundbreakingly boasts the only female coaches in the league, would have likely received significantly more scrutiny if results had gone awry. Instead, their on-field performances have been near-flawless, with the league's two top wicket-takers, a spinner and a fast bowler, hailing from the franchise. Just about every single win has been comfortable, and as the table takes shape, it's hard to argue they aren't the best team in the competition.

The last four seasons have seen the Sultans finish top or second after the league stages, and they have made three of the last four finals. While history suggests anything can happen in the knockouts, Sultans' league supremacy remains unrivalled.

Karachi (the Kings, the crowd)

If the Kings lose a game but no one shows up to watch it, did it actually happen? The team is under new management and captaincy, but all they've accomplished so far is demonstrate that they are slightly better than a Qalandars side at its worst. Seems like a lot of effort for little reward.

The first leg was played in Lahore and Multan, and the Kings might have hoped moving to Karachi would help reinvigorate them but it hasn't worked out like that. Then again, is it really home advantage if the home crowd doesn't show up? The relatively sparsely populated stands in ostensibly Pakistan's most cricket-mad city stood in stark contrast to what Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan offered.

Karachi's absent crowd is a regular whipping boy for the other franchises, especially the only one below them on the points table. But if you've ever been to the National stadium without a media or VIP pass, you'd be surprised that anyone shows up at all.

No one quite knows how to get there on matchday, with security protocols maddeningly random, and ticket printing booths far away. And while at Gaddafi stadium, it can almost seem like there's no bad seat, in Karachi, there's barely a good one. Chain-link fences obstruct the view for anyone sitting closer to the front, and if you move further back, you can barely make out the players let alone the ball.

It's not the spectators who've let that stadium down, but the other way around. And, for now, the Kings haven't exactly given them a reason to turn up, either.

The Azam Khan culture war

The Azam Khan culture wars take on a fresh dimension every week, and after a feeble start to the PSL, two blistering innings have demonstrated the batter's value to his side. He isn't Pakistan's best keeper, fielder, or runner, and so it can seem as if he has more going against him than for him. But there is perhaps no one in Pakistan cricket who can overpower a bowling attack towards the backend of a T20 innings like the Islamabad United wicketkeeper, making up for lack of agility with fearsome strength and the sweetest timing.

Tim David once told ESPNcricinfo he'd consciously worked on becoming a lower-order hitter because everyone wanted to bat in the powerplay in T20 cricket. As Pakistan wrestle with how to fit an expanding pool of top-order players into the top three, Azam continues to press his case at a time of the innings few put their hands up.

The PSL's unusual spinners

While the national side has suddenly run dry of T20 spinners, the PSL can't get enough of them. Leggie Usama Mir is now the tournament's leading wicket-taker, while mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and Shadab Khan place third and fourth.

But Abrar isn't the only unorthodox spinner in the PSL this season. Peshawar Zalmi's Arif Yaqoob, who has barely played any first-class cricket, took four wickets in an over to deny United at the death, and has an action so uncanny you can barely keep an eye on his wrist, let alone the ball. Quetta Gladiators' Usman Tariq, meanwhile, breaks off all his momentum by coming to a near standstill at the moment of release, and then holding the pose like a penalty taker waiting for the goalkeeper to commit.

Salman Fayyaz of Qalandars appears to fall away as he sends down his legbreaks, though he did remain upright enough to take a sharp return catch and get rid of Alex Hales. Sultans have tried out Faisal Akram, perhaps best described as a left arm wristspinner with a googly for a stock delivery.

Abrar remains a cut above the rest, but the emergence of the others suggests an experimentally permissive culture at the PSL. For spinners, history suggests that can only be a good thing.