The Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators encounters have been the talk of the PSL since season one. Before today’s face-off, both teams were four all head-to-head. Today was the second time these two teams met at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. This was also the second-ever Pakistan Super League match in Pakistan and boy did it live up to expectations or what.
A helmetless/capless Anwar Ali was on strike for the last over of the match, Quetta Gladiators required 25 from 6. Liam Dawson - the man who ensured Peshawar reached a compatible total - was entrusted with the ball to help them cross the finish line. The first ball went for a four, a mistimed slog by Anwar Ali went over the unfit Darren Sammy at the short-third man. The next delivery went for a maximum! The crowd erupted with joy, Quetta needed 15 from 4 now. Dawson followed up with a dot ball. Everyone in the stadium was on the edge of their seats; some were even standing by now. Anwar Ali hit Dawson for another six, this time over long on. 9 off 2! The whole stadium echoed with chants of ‘Anwar, Anwar’.
It was a sight to cherish, Pakistani crowd cheering for their local boy, making sure the noise level hit the roof. Pause for a moment and just imagine the time when every single PSL game would be played in front of a full house local crowd. That day onwards will mark the actual homecoming of cricket to the place it should have never left to begin with.
Back to the second last ball, boom six more! All Anwar Ali needed was to hit one more boundary from the last ball: it was a full-toss, Ali connected but not well enough only to be dropped at long on. Mir Hamza, the non-striker, failed to take the second run. By the time they decided to run, it was all over as he was run-out. Peshawar Zalmi in yet another thrilling encounter edged past Quetta Gladiators by ONE run. They’ll face Karachi Kings in the second eliminator on 22nd March. Meanwhile, for the first time in three years, we will not see Quetta Gladiators in the final.
Earlier, Quetta had decided to bowl first in overcast conditions. Cricket had come home once again, the almost full house Gaddafi stadium could not wait to watch the live action. Rain played spoilsport but much to everyone’s relief no overs were deducted from the match. Zalmi were all-out for 157: thanks to Liam Dawson’s blistering knock of 62 off just 43 balls they managed to post a score in excess of 150. Rahat Ali bowled a sensational spell of fast bowling, he took 4 for 16 from four overs.
In reply, Quetta lost both their openers in quick succession. They sent Mohammad Nawaz and Sarfraz Ahmad up the order to steady the ship. The two added 63 off 45 for the third wicket. Quetta were in the driver's seat at that stage, they were 79/2 and required 78 from 66. The tenth over is when Quetta decided to throw the match away. First Nawaz (35 off 32) and then Sarfraz Ahmed (35 off 21) gave their wickets to Sameen Gul. It proved to be the turning point of the match.
Quetta couldn’t recover from the double wicket over; Mahmudullah, Rilee Rossouw and Thisara Perera only managed to score 39 off 45. Hassan Ali, also the player of the first eliminator, bowled a superb 18th over gaving away just two runs and finished off with figures of 2 for 21. Wahab Riaz took 2 in the nineteenth over, leaving Quetta with 25 runs to chase in the final over and only two wickets in hand. It was a herculean task, Anwar Ali tried more than he ever could but failed to help his team cross the finish line. He was this close to becoming relevant again, alas somethings are just not meant to be.