A magnificent opening event and launch in Dubai. Big names and close games. PSL started the weekend with a bang, but ended it in sloth.
Crowds dwindled as the week began on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates, and the empty stands started resembling those that are often seen in Pakistan’s international fixtures.
There was visible inertia both on and off the field. Perhaps the dark cloud of corruption inquiries and accusations had a dampening effect on the atmosphere of Pakistan cricket’s premier product.
Peshawar Zalmi won the toss and elected to field. Teams batting second had won four of the previous five games, and this was not going to be any different.
Another day, another left arm spinner opened the bowling against Lahore Qalandars. This time Mohammad Asghar’s plan worked as Brendon McCullum was dismissed for a naught in the first over of the game.
In the second over his partner Jason Roy was back in the hut too.
Two balls later Mohammad Hafeez took a good diving catch to help dismiss Umar Akmal and earned a selfie with captain cool.
Umar set a new record of 24 ducks in T20 cricket.
Fakhar Zaman scored over 50 per cent of Lahore’s disappointing total as the Qalandars fell well below the previous lowest total in all of PSL’s short history.
Lahore was all-out for 59 in 10.2 overs.
Even after having seen his opening partner’s wicket fall at the other end, Hafeez went on a walk against the wily Sunil Narine to reduce Peshawar Zalmi to 4/2.
Lahore were looking for quick wickets to make a game out of this and Mohammad Irfan Jr. got Eoin Morgan to slice one to third man. Sunil Narine lacked match awareness by moving in too much and saw the ball sail over his head for a four. He would probably have swallowed it, if he had stood his ground.
Shahid Afridi delighted the crowd by walking in ahead of Sohaib Maqsood and Darren Sammy. But with his team in trouble, Afridi scored three cautious and uncharacteristic runs in the first 11 deliveries he faced.
After a sedate start, he launched Narine for a four and a six off consecutive balls to get everyone on their feet and jumping for joy. It was typically Afridi, 4,6,0,W. He tried taking on the longer boundary at deep midwicket and held out to Grant Elliot.
Yasir Shah set the cat amongst the pigeons as he bowled captain Sammy to cue some extreme nerves being shown out in the middle. He finished the night with 4 for 7, his best figures and the first time he took over 3 wickets in 64 T20s.
Peshawar was reduced to 51/7, still needing nine runs with three wickets in hand.
However, the end result was a match taking longer than anyone expected it to with Lahore supporters taking heart from the fight shown by their team captain and his men.
Defending champions Islamabad United will face last year’s finalists Quetta Gladiators when the games return on Wednesday, February 15.
Karachi and Lahore have started the tournament poorly, similar to their last year’s performance. And they will hope to make amends when they face each other on Thursday, February 16, in a much-awaited encounter.
PSL now goes into a two-day break, perhaps much awaited, and at the right time.
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