The maiden season of the Pakistan Super League turned out to be a big hit among the fans, as they now wait eagerly for the second season. And given how the PSL draft for the 2017 season went, things can only get more interesting come the next season.
Highlights – Gladiators grab unlikely victory
In a nutshell
This was nothing like Quetta Gladiators’ one-run win over Peshawar Zalmi at the same stage last year. Boundaries flowed seemingly on demand, and ten an over was par for the course. And yet what was the result? Quetta beat Peshawar by one run to qualify for the PSL final on March 5 in Lahore.
The scale of run-scoring and power of ball-striking was on a different level to what had been seen in their clash last year, but there was always a hint of déjà vu. After an early blip, Peshawar took control of a chase of 201 with Mohammad Hafeez and Dawid Malan putting on one of the partnerships of the tournament. Their 139 runs from 72 balls wrenched the momentum back from Quetta, whose bowlers were hamstrung by the heavy dew on the Sharjah outfield.
When Shahid Afridi arrived, and looked in his absolute six-hitting best, the target was brought to almost a run a ball. The wheels turned, however, with his dismissal. With Peshawar needing seven off six, left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who had gone for 46 in his first three overs, triggered three wickets to fall in the last three balls to seal the game.
Quetta had done most of their damage with the bat in the first 10 overs. Ahmed Shehzad and Kevin Pietersen ransacked 90 runs in only 42 balls for the second wicket to take the score to 121 for 1, prompting Peshawar to take a time out. Darren Sammy rallied his troops and they responded beautifully, with only two boundaries coming off the next eight overs. However, Quetta had gained such a sizeable advantage in terms of run-rate in the first half of the innings that they still made 200 with simple rotation of strike and some streaky fours in the end.
Where the match was won
After a couple of games where Quetta appeared too timid to take charge of the big moments, their aggressive intent from ball one was a pleasant change.
With one of the best in this regard, Viv Richards, watching from their corner, Shehzad and Luke Wright set up a rapid start, and when Pietersen came to the crease, Quetta surged into top gear, showcasing some of the cleanest hitting of the PSL this year. Seventy-seven runs were scored between the fifth and tenth overs and however well Peshawar did to pull them back after that, Sarfraz’s men had given themselves enough of a cushion.
File photo: Ahmed Shehzad made 71 off a mere 38 balls © Chris Whiteoak
The men that won it
Nawaz’s figures today might be some of the more forgettable ones of his career, but what 4-0-51-3 doesn’t reveal is his work in the final over. He was having a bad night but against all logic Sarfraz trusted him to bowl under the highest pressure. Sammy, one of the fiercest strikers in T20 cricket, was on strike. The ball was so soaked with dew that it was hard to grip.
Yet the 22-year old left-arm spinner managed to hit his lengths more often than not and, by refusing to let the batsman get leverage to hit him over those inviting short boundaries in Sharjah, pulled off a memorable heist. Nawaz also held on to a steepling catch in the 19th over to dismiss Afridi for 34 off 13 balls.
Quetta were perhaps helped by Sammy’s refusing to take a single off the first ball of the over though his partner Chris Jordan is a decent lower-order batsman. Peshawar eventually lost by one run.
Moment of the match
Riling Pietersen up when he has the bat in hand is not a very good move for a bowler and Wahab Riaz found that out on Tuesday. In the sixth over of the match, Wahab bumped into Pietersen while he was trying to sneak a single and then hit the batsman with a throw aimed at the non-strikers’ end. As if that wasn’t enough, he appealed to the umpire for an obstructing-the-field dismissal, which was turned down.
Two balls later, Pietersen launched Wahab for a six that flew out of the stadium and landed on the far side of the street outside the stadium.
Where they stand
Quetta secure their place in the final of the PSL with this win. Peshawar will now have to beat either Karachi Kings or Islamabad United in the eliminator on Friday for a shot at the trophy.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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