[written by Hashim Ghazi]
Sultans vs Mamluks - BSL Finals - 5:15PM @ Birchwood 1
In a season many say was the best to date given the parity, the two top-ranked teams heading into the postseason find themselves locked in a Finals matchup that many are struggling to predict. On one hand, you have the Mamluks, a team that was clearly the most consistent and balanced team in the League this year. On the other hand, you have the Sultans; a team that faced tons of adversity throughout the year and found themselves getting hot at the right time.
After the Ottomans mercied the Mughals in the first wildcard game, they ran into the buzz saw known as the Mamluks. The semi-final saw the Green Machine pull out 15-6 thanks to some timely hitting and stellar defensive play – but really, what else would you expect from this group of guys? The charge was led by none other than Baseer Yasseen, who notched six RBIs on the day, including a first-inning grand slam to straight away centre. And you know how GM Rizvan Merchant & Co. get down – once they have a lead, you may as well call the game then and there. The Mamluks look for their second championship in three years and know what to expect come BSL Final Sunday having been there before.
On the other hand, the Sultans were one of two teams in the League that have yet to play in the Finals…until now. With the Nasrids completely stifling the Ayyubids in the second wildcard game, they found themselves in a back-and-forth affair with the Sultans that the Stallions won on a game winning sacrifice fly by Shaheen Limbada. The boy they call Slim was a menace throughout the game, notching two home runs and 7 RBIs on the day that included a towering gland slam over the centre field fence. He matched that offensive outburst with a commanding display in the outfield that featured flashy glove work and a couple of diving snags as well. Limbada especially wanted this one against the Nasrids after having the worst game of his life versus them last year in the playoffs. Omer Chaudhry had himself a day at the plate as well, going 4 for 4; the Sultans look to keep their momentum going into the Final, but must be at their best one-through-twelve to be crowned Champions come Sunday night.
The last time the Mamluks won the championship, two of the Sultans superstars were rocking the forest green themselves. The frontrunner for MVP Shahzad Ahmed and the aforementioned Chaudhry know what the Mamluks are all about and will hope their advanced knowledge of their opponents gives them an edge. However, this may prove to be a double-edged sword, as the Mamluks also know the strengths and weaknesses of Shaz and the OC, two of the best hitters in the League, and if they shut them down, they basically will shut down the Sultans. The game will also feature the two best defensive short stops in the League in Jibran Waqar and Kamil Haider. We all can talk about Jibs play at SS until we’re blue in the face (and we should, because he is an absolute beast), but Kamil has been unbelievable as well all season and has galvanized an infield once seen as a weakness to a relative strength.
So, there you have it – the Sultans and Mamluks face off in a tantalizing Finals matchup. Will it be the defensive-first approach of the Mamluks coming out on top or the juggernaut of power Sultans? Will Riz regulate his way to a second championship in three years or will Shams’ Stallions stampede their way to the franchise's first ever title? Two teams. 9 innings. One potential victor. Who you got?