In a nutshell
Having finished runners-up in the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League last year, Quetta Gladiators once again found themselves on the wrong side of the result in the tournament final. This time, it was Peshawar Zalmi who trumped them by 58 runs to lift the title.
On a pitch where scoring runs was hard work, Quetta needed their batsmen to be smart. Instead, one after the other they perished to extravagant shots. Left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar, whose flat non-turners fetched him 3 for 16, got two of his wickets due to the batsmen’s profligacy.
That’s not to say Peshawar’s bowlers did not earn their wickets. Hasan Ali was skiddy, and found bounce and seam movement off the pitch. Mohammad Hafeez’s variations in trajectory and pace got him a wicket in his first over, an anxious Sarfraz Ahmed stumped, and by the eighth over, half of Quetta’s line-up had been sent packing. The rest of the innings followed the same template, and so swift was the slide that many of the cricket-starved fans in Lahore had already made their way out by the time the match ended.
In stark contrast, Peshawar had raced away to 41 in four overs in their start and Quetta were able to apply the brakes only after the spinners came on. As the ball became old, it stopped on the batsmen, and variable bounce came into play, too.
Quetta’s spinners were also able to make use of the dry, cracked surface to suffocate Peshawar with timely wickets. Rayad Emrit’s double-strike in the 17th over, which left the score at 112 for 6 helped Quetta seize some advantage in the end overs, and also allowed Sarfraz to keep a slip in place in the 18th over of the innings. But Darren Sammy flexed his muscles as Peshawar clubbed 33 runs in the final two overs.
Where the match was won
Emrit, who arrived in Lahore on the morning of the final, sent down a superb three overs for 3 for 13, despite jet lag. The start had been exactly as he would have hoped, with his first three overs yielding 3 for 13 across two spells. The finish? Far from it.
Emrit was taken apart for 18 runs in his final over, the 19th of the innings, as he got his lengths wrong and was punished by Sammy’s brute force. If the first boundary of the over had been a lucky one that came off the outside edge, the last had Sammy’s signature all over it – a full-blooded, bottom-handed thump that crashed into the sightscreen.
Sammy clubbed two more sixes off the final over, picking Anwar Ali’s harmless lengths early and swatting them over long-on to finish with an unbeaten 28 off 11 balls. The late fireworks went a long way towards Sammy winning the Player-of-the-Match award and helped Peshawar recover from 115 for 6 after 18 overs to 148 for 6.
The early burst
The short ball proved to be the worst option for bowlers from both sides as batsmen were able to comfortably ride the bounce and whack it either side of the wicket. No one benefitted more from that than Kamran Akmal, who scored 40 off 32 at the top of the order.
Quetta’s bowlers, seemingly not learning from their mistakes, repeatedly dragged their length early on, and Kamran duly punished them, pulling with authority and piercing the off side with his cuts. Even after the opening burst had ended, Kamran was able to use the cut shot as an effective pressure-buster. Four of his boundaries came through the shot and helped set the tone for a good total, which eventually became a match-winning one after Sammy’s knock.
Moment of the match
Shahid Afridi’s finger injury denied fans a glimpse of the allrounder at the final but the packed Gaddafi Stadium was invested in a new hero. Sammy’s last-over heroics got the crowd into a frenzy and when the second of the two sixes vanished into the stands over long-on, the crowd broke into a chorus of “Sammy, Sammy!”
Later, after Hasan Ali took out Zulfiqar Babar’s off stump to seal the game, Sammy called his boys for the selfie celebration as the crowd again erupted. Then, as if to show how much they had missed Afridi, every member of the team attempted the star-man pose.
That Sammy had won over the fans was further validated when the Peshawar captain was greeted with loud cheers at the presentation ceremony. “To me, it’s just more than a game,” he said. “It first started in the draft. Lala [Afridi] made the big announcement that I would be the captain. This trophy means a lot. Lala influenced my decision to come here. I felt tonight I brought a lot of smiles in Lahore and Peshawar. It is an amazing day.
“Peshawar is not just a cricket team, we do a lot for the fans, the foundation. Thanks to the PCB, and the PSL. I am glad I came to experience the atmosphere here.”