PSL 2018: Lowdown on the play-offs and form guide on Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta

Islamabad United, Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators are the four teams remaining in the tournament with the action in the UAE concluding on Sunday before the action moves to Pakistan for the final games.

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - March 14th, 2018: Quetta Gladiators' Jason Roy (L) bats in the game between Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators in PSL 2018. Wednesday, March 14th, 2018 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The Pakistan Super League has reached its business end, with Islamabad United taking on Karachi Kings in the first qualifier final at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday night.

Here is a rundown on what is to come and what to watch for in the remaining week of the tournament.

The fixtures

Sunday, March 18

Qualifier, Dubai International Stadium: Islamabad United v Karachi Kings

Tuesday, March 20

Eliminator 1, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore: Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators

Wednesday, March 21

Eliminator 2, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore: Losers of the qualifier v winners of eliminator 1

Sunday, March 25

Final, National Stadium, Karachi: Winners of the qualifier v winners of eliminator 2


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How does it work?

The six-team PSL 3 has been whittled down to four. The playoffs use a system similar to the Indian Premier League, rather than the more conventional, first-plays-fourth and second-plays-third format used in football and rugby, for example.

Islamabad and Karachi finished first and second in the regular season table. As such, they meet in the first qualifier match. The winners go directly through to the final in Karachi on Sunday March 25.

The losers get a second chance – reward for finish the season placed higher in the table than the other two teams – in the second eliminator on Wednesday.

The first eliminator is a repeat of last year’s final between Peshawar, the defending champions, and Quetta, in Lahore on Tuesday.

What is the form?

Islamabad, who won the first PSL in 2016, were top of the points table at the end of the 10-game regular season, with seven wins and just three losses.

One of those losses arrived on Friday in Sharjah in what turned out to be a dress-rehearsal for the qualifier play-off, when they were beaten by Karachi.

Islamabad had fielded an experimental side with some of their form players rested. Karachi, though, will feel the win reflected their talents, particularly that of their all-star bowling attack.

Peshawar and Quetta finished with matching records – won five, lost five – but Zalmi in particular will be buoyed by the way they powered through to the playoffs, finding strong form when they most needed it.

They required two wins in 24 hours to qualify. Kamran Akmal was the match-winner both times as they did just that with wins on Thursday and Friday.

Who will be playing?

As with last year, there will be some notable absentees when the competition decamps to Pakistan from Dubai.

The teams leave on Tuesday morning. Peshawar will keep most of their overseas stars, which was a key part of their success last year, with only Dwayne Smith opting out. Shakib Al Hasan will replace him.

By contrast, Quetta will definitely be without their batting kingpin, Kevin Pietersen. The storied former England batsman confirmed he would not be going to Pakistan by confirming his retirement from cricket when the playoffs were confirmed. “Boots up! Thank you!” he wrote in a tweet on Friday.

Eoin Morgan, who has captained Karachi in the absence of Imad Wasim, who has been out with concussion, is the only one of their overseas players to opt out.