WILD CARD GAME: Istanbul (5) @ Medina (4)
The first ever BSL Nights playoff schedule kicks off with an exciting wild card game between the league’s bottom dwelling teams. After Cairo slipped up to Lahore in the final week of the regular season, Medina found themselves in the fourth spot in the standings which set them up for this showdown. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Medina, having lost two straight games and facing an Istanbul squad who are coming off a big win but more importantly beat Medina twice this season. After being touted as one of the best teams post-draft, not many thought that Medina would be in this position come playoff time. Meanwhile, Istanbul comes into this matchup feeling good about their odds against Medina, and also coming off a big win against red hot Cordoba to close the season.
Istanbul GM Zain Malik has continued to emphasize the importance of playoff performance irrespective of regular season standings and insists that fans shouldn’t be surprised if Istanbul pulls off the upset. The story for Medina this season has been lineup consistency. Missing BSL vet Hassan Chaudhry for several games as well as slugger Ismail Akhter for a couple proved to be a challenge for Medina to deal with. However, there is no doubting the fact that they’re an offence that can’t be slept on with all of their top players in uniform.
After putting up a 40 RBI campaign, Ismail Akhter will be looked upon heavily by his Medina teammates to produce runs during this pivotal wild card game. Meanwhile, the leadership of Zain Malik and the defensive play of brother Hamid Malik will be key factors in getting their squad passed Medina.
SEMI-FINAL: Lahore (3) @ Cordoba (2)
After starting off the season relatively well, Lahore fell to third place in the standings after a few heartbreaking defeats. Rookie pitcher Fuzail Thakur had a breakout pitching season, racking up the most strikeouts to put him into the conversation for the pitcher’s award behind ERA champ (and 9 game winner) Zia “doc” Beg. Furthermore, with second round pick and slugger Shamil Khadaroo back in the lineup after a deserved summer vacation abroad, Lahore looks to be well equipped for a deep playoff run. Although Lahore has won a game or two against their semi-final opponents Cordoba, they shouldn’t by any means take this matchup lightly. After starting the season off a dismal 0-4, Cordoba has only lost one game since that time (while winning 5 and tying 2).
Third baseman Ahmad Ammad has put together quite the season for Cordoba with the highest batting average and on base percentage in the league, proving that he was in fact worthy of the second overall pick in the draft. Bilal Javed and Yousaf Chaudhry will also be looked upon to provide offense for their squads in this pivotal matchup.
Cordoba’s defence has been a liability all season long, so all hands will have to be on deck if they want to get passed the bats of Lahore in the semi-final. Speaking of defence, Lahore GM Aftab Sheikh has made claims in BSL chat rooms that his team boasts the best defence in the league. Credit is due for the confidence he has shown in his squad, but with a regular season run differential of just +5 while finishing the year an even 6-6, some fans might think otherwise in regard to the league’s best defensive team.
SEMI FINAL: Cairo Vs (?)
After securing the top spot in the league and becoming the only team to finish with a winning record (more wins than losses), Cairo will await the winner of the wild card game prior to facing off for their semi-final clash against either Medina or Istanbul. Cairo comes into the playoffs after an entertaining season with several players finishing in the top 15 for various offensive stats alongside pitcher Zia “Doc” Beg who kept opponents’ ERA below 9. Similarly to other teams in the league, Cairo has dealt with lineup consistency throughout the season, missing ageless wonder Hassan Khan for several weeks, as well as Yasser Malik, Ali Chaudhry and Miqdad Jaffer for a few games each due to personal reasons. Despite missing their top players during the mid-season, Cairo has been able to weather the storm. On the flip side, however, they come into the playoffs after losing a sloppy affair against Lahore, putting up their lowest offensive output of the season with just 3 runs. Although most likely an anomaly game, Cairo will have to average closer to their league leading 16 runs per game when squaring off against the desperate wild card winner.