PSL 3 to start in February, Karachi to host final


–Pakistan hosts three PSL matches

LAHORE: The Pakistan Super League (PSL) will stage three games in Pakistan next season, including the final in Karachi at the end of March, which will be the highest-profile game in the port city in nine years.

The PCB released an expanded 34-game schedule for the third season of the tournament (it was 24 last season), which will also see the entry of a sixth franchise, Multan Sultans. The tournament will last just over a month, beginning on February 22 with the defending champions Peshawar Zalmi taking on Multan.

The format remains the same – all teams playing each other twice before the top four progress to qualifiers and eliminators. As before, the bulk of the games will be played in the UAE, between Sharjah and Dubai. There had been talk of using Abu Dhabi as a venue, more so after the Zayed Cricket Stadium hosted two T20s and ODIs against Sri Lanka earlier this season, but the city will miss out once again on the PSL.

After the group stage matches, the first qualifier is the only one that will be played in the UAE. The two eliminators are set to be played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, the venue for last season’s final.

All eyes, however, will be on Karachi, as it attempts to host its biggest match since it last held an international – a Test against Sri Lanka in February 2009. That was the last completed Test in Pakistan, before the attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore.

There has been persistent chatter about the National Stadium in Karachi not being ready in time to host the game, though last month, the PCB chairman Najam Sethi said, “We have made a commitment to try our best to have it in Karachi.”

In October, Reg Dickason, the security expert who advises the ICC and works with FICA, visited Karachi and met with senior security and government officials, the first step in assessing whether or not the city is ready to host high-profile games.

West Indies are also scheduled to tour Pakistan in March next year for a three-match T20 series, though venues for that commitment have not yet been confirmed.