Quetta Gladiators will turn up on the field for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final with a significantly altered line-up to the one that has seen them through in the first place. On Saturday, the morning after they discovered their opponents for the game in Lahore on Sunday, they secured the services of five foreign players to replace their contracted roster, none of whom were prepared to travel to Pakistan for security reasons.
Their XI will feature a combination from Bangladesh's Anamul Haque, South Africa's Morne van Wyk, Zimbabwe's Elton Chigumbura and Sean Ervine, and West Indies' Rayad Emrit who have all agreed to travel to Lahore. They are not quite like-for-like replacements for Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Roussow, Luke Wright, Tymal Mills and Nathan McCullum but organisers will be relieved that they do at least have an overseas contingent to rely on for the final.
Haque, van Wyk (both wicketkeeper-batsmen), Chigumbura and Erive (both allrounders) will join the team on Sunday morning, while logistics are being worked out to get Emrit (also an allrounder) to Lahore in time for the match that begins at 8pm local time. Pakistan pacer Aizaz Cheema has also been added to the squad, a replacement for the injured Umar Gul. Team mentor Viv Richards and fielding coach Julien Fountain - both overseas recruitments - are expected to arrive in Lahore for the game in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"KP, Luke, Rilee, Mills would have been great but we respect their decision," the franchise said. "We are still confident of winning the PSL final despite missing the big stars. For our local players, playing at home is a huge opportunity. The experience of playing in front of the home crowd is massive, and all of them are excited about it."
The local players of the Quetta squad are already in Lahore and have had training sessions at the National Cricket Academy, next to the Gaddafi Stadium where the match against Peshawar Zalmi will be played. As the city prepares for the much-awaited game with various security measures, an estimated 18,000 tickets have already been sold and a full house is expected.
Their opponents Peshawar, meanwhile, will be able to call upon nearly all of their first-choice foreign stars, having successfully convinced their quartet to travel to Lahore for the game*. The captain Darren Sammy was asked after Friday evening's win over Karachi Kings in Dubai about Lahore, but he evaded the question, saying only that he had to discuss the matter with the franchise owner Javed Afridi.
Late on Saturday, however, league officials confirmed that Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan would be playing and were due to arrive in Lahore early Sunday morning - the delay in confirmation was due to the wait for Jordan's clearance from the ECB. Their fifth foreign player, England allrounder Samit Patel, has not been given an NOC by his county Nottinghamshire, and will not travel to Lahore. In the squad are also two emerging Afghanistan players.
The PCB has been firm on playing the final in Lahore - despite a spate of bombings rocking the city and other parts of the country too last month - as it sees the match as an opportunity to show that it is safe for international cricket to return to Pakistan. Zimbabwe and Afghanistan are the only international teams to play in Pakistan since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in March 2009. The Zimbabwe series in 2015 was not incident free, with a bomb blast occurring during the second ODI 800 metres away from the stadium and killing two people.
Among the security measures in check this time are three layers of security checks, some as far as two kilometres away from the ground, a new range of scanning and CCTV equipment, and the deployment of over 10,000 security personnel including Pakistan's paramilitary force, the Rangers.
*18.40 GMT - This story was updated with confirmation from the PSL about the status of Peshawar's overseas players