[written by: Riyad Ramjaun, Zahid Merchant & Taha Iqbal | edited by Hashim Ghazi]
The PLAYOFFS ARE HERE! The best weekend of the summer is upon us and 6 teams have a legitimate shot at the title this weekend. Only one team will be celebrating on Sunday at 7:30pm. So much can be said about each of the teams and the upcoming matchups. Our writers break down the matchups for the wild card and semi-finals. Here we go:
This Sunday, BSL will be selling tandoori chicken pizza at the fields. $5 for 2 slices of pizza. Please come prepared.
Mughals v Ottomans - 2:00PM BW1
Playoff history: 2-0 Mughals (2014 Finals, 2016 Semis)
Last 5 games: Mughals W,W,L,W,L; Ottomans: L,T,L,W,L
BSL Writers Prediction: Ottomans win (58% of votes)
In their minds, both the Mughals and Ottomans took a shot at the trade deadline and are hoping it pays off. Game 1 pits these two rivals against each other and unlike the first game after the trade, this game will feature all 4 players involved. Although both teams still feel like they have bolstered their own respective lineups heading into the playoffs, each team’s records have gone in opposite directions since. For the Ottomans, they have struggled a little since the trade going 1-4-1, but with their prized OF Hassan Chaudhry back in full form after getting married, the Turks will come out prepared. GM Hashim Ghazi and AGM Rehan Ahmad will ensure that this squad is ready to go the distance and finally bring home that championship that has eluded the franchise thus far. They took a shot with their deadline trade and are hoping this will pay off by increasing the depth and talent on an already talented team. For the Mughals, they took their own shot by trading away key players while missing their own AGM for the 2nd half of the season and hoping that the remaining players could capture a playoff spot. GM Zahid Merchant’s gamble has paid off so far, with the Mughals going 4-2 since the trade and locking up their playoff spot. This week will be the first time the Mughals will field all 12 players with AGM Nadeem Hussein back in the fold, and on paper, a full Mughals roster looks dangerous; however, chemistry could be an issue. Rumour has it the Mughals are practicing and meeting frequently to ensure they are all on the same page this weekend. The teams split their matchup during the season, but a lot has changed since then. Ismail Akhter has been a force against the Ottomans this year, going 9-9 with 2 HRs and 3 doubles – he’s licking his chops at the prospect of facing them again. On the other hand, Taha Iqbal did what he’s done all season for the Turks, going 7-10 with 2 HRs and getting two doubles of his own in the two games against the Mughals.
With all the feel of a Finals game, Game 1 of the playoffs between these two storied squads will set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Mamluks vs. Mughals/Ottomans - 4:00PM BW1
Head-to-head vs Mughals: 1-1
Head-to-head vs Ottomans: 1-0-1
Playoff history: 1-1 Mughals (2016 Finals, 2017 Semis); Ottomans 0-0
Last 5 games: W,W,T,W,W
BSL Writers Prediction: Mamluks win (67% of votes over both teams)
The Green Machine come in the playoffs riding an impressive 10-2-1 streak that earned them the top seed. Their only loss in the final half of the season came by 1 run to the Ayyubids. While their streak is impressive, even more impressive has been their ability to plug holes with key players missing. W K has missed the final six games of the season and Adeel Alam has missed more than half the season. Both players are expected back for the playoffs after team doctors patched their injuries. The Mamluks have all the confidence in the world coming into the semi-finals after winning close games all season. They will be hoping the two additions will give them more cushion and solidify an already dangerous lineup. The Green Machine will face the winner of the Mughals and Ottomans in the semi-finals. It is unclear which opponent they prefer but they are just hoping both teams gruel out a close game so the Mamluks can prey on a fatigued opponent. They won three out of four games against both sides and know them well. The key for the Mamluks will be to get off to an early lead and let the League’s stingiest defence take over. The last time the Mamluks were the #1 seed, they waltzed all the way to the title. They will be hoping they can do the same in 2018.
Nasrids vs. Ayyubids – 5:45PM BW1
Playoff history: None
Last 5 games: Nasrids W,W,W,L,L; Ayyubids: L,W,L,L,W
BSL Writers Prediction: Ayyubids win (58% of votes)
Last year, right around this time, the lowly Nasrids caught fire and brought down the mighty Ottomans on BSL Super Saturday. The stage this year is not too dissimilar from last as the Nasrids again made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Omer Chaudhry’s homerun in the penultimate game of the regular season not only catapulted Sultans into a bye position, but also dragged Nasrids across the right side of the line separating ignominy and ecstasy. The Spaniards season this year has been a tale of two extremes, brilliant and shoddy, and they have been able to consistently oscillate between the two between weeks, heck, even between doubleheader games. While this may sound like a weakness, it makes Nasrids all the more dangerous and the only variable the Ayyubids cannot prepare against. The Ayyubids on the other hand have proved BSL analysts and their detractors wrong every step of the way. With 10 of their 12 hitters hitting above their career averages, a defence that has given up least number of errors and an elite pitcher, there is little doubt that this has been a complete team effort. While everyone predicted a middle of the pack finish, the men in black nearly pulled off a bye position only to be outdone by their run differential. The Ayyubids and Nasrids split the season series 1-1 with Ayyubids taking the first game 10-9 but losing the second leg 7-15. Both these games were played on Birchwood 1 and they’ll stay on the same field for this playoff match-up as well. Unsurprisingly, Ahmad Ammad and Osman Buttar were the two stars from the season series – Ammad went 7-7 with three Homeruns, and Buttar went 7-8 with two dingers and a double. Other noteworthy contributors were Nirvaan Latif who went 3-5 with two Homeruns, two sac-flies and eight RBIs and Umair Sheikh going 5-8 with three doubles. Both games were defensively tight with both teams giving up only three errors combined over the two contests.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top in this matchup, but we expect both teams ready and rearing for a matchup with the Sultans.
Sultans vs. Nasrids/Ayyubids – 7:45PM BW1
Head-to-head vs Nasrids: 1-1
Head-to-head vs Ayyubids: 1-1
Playoff history: 0-1 Nasrids (2017 WC); Ayyubids 0-0
BSL Writers Prediction: Sultans win (83% of votes over both teams)
Oh how one inning can change the fortunes of an entire season. The Sultans came into a do-or-die matchup against the Seljuqs with no starting pitcher and a 7-0 deficit after one inning. Down 11-4 with only two innings to go, they put up a staunch 7 run effort, and followed that up with a walk-off homerun by Omer Chaudhry to propel them into the playoffs. The momentum carried on in a relatively easy win against the Mughals next, and they now find themselves with a bye heading into the playoffs – 6 outs away from potentially being eliminated to a 2nd seed. The Sultans are in the semi-finals for the first time in 4 years with a golden chance to play their first ever BSL Final. The team has grinded out games with guys missing time and playing out of position. None of that matters now because they are two wins away from the ultimate prize. MVP-candidate Shahzad Ahmed has carried the boys on his back and has a chance to cement the best seasons in BSL history. The Sultans will be in tough against either the Nasrids or Ayyubids. The Stallions split their season series against both teams but will definitely favour the Nasrids for a chance at redemption for last season’s wild card loss. The Ayyubids can match them HR-for-HR which will turn into a heavyweight bout should they meet in the semis. The Sultans have everything going in their favour at the moment, but the two week break can be a momentum breaker as we have seen in the past. Can the Stallions gallop all the way to the September classic or will there be more disappointment for the horsemen?
BSL Writers Prediction for Champion: Ottomans (41%), Sultans (33%), Mughals (16%), Nasrids (8%)
Let's get it started!