It's no secret that Peshawar Zalmi's title defence hasn't started the way they would've liked. The reigning Pakistan Super League champions lost to newcomers Multan Sultans on the opening day of the 2018 tournament before bouncing back in the next game against Islamabad United, only to be pegged back again by the Karachi Kings.
The franchise has so far refused to hit the panic button, attributing their poor start to just bad luck. But while bad luck could work as a plausible reason for one win in three, one win in four could be an altogether different story. That's a solid pattern and one Zalmi would want to avoid at all costs when they face Quetta Gladiators tonight at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in what is a repeat of last year's final.
There could be some truth to the claim that Zalmi haven't had the rub of the green or that they haven't been utterly abysmal in any of their three matches. In their opening day defeat, they put together 150 odd runs, which has since proven to be a defendable total in the tournament. On paper, it should've been enough against a side playing its first-ever competitive game. But the Sultans played like a seasoned side rather than the rookies they are — not Zalmi's fault.
Zalmi, against the Kings, could muster just 131 runs and deservedly lost — a little their fault.
In their defence, they did make a game out of it though and had it not been for Karachi's Imad Wasim smashing a clutch six, it could've gone either way. Between those two games, they completely dominated Islamabad United, winning by 34 runs and proving that they have still got it.
Like Zalmi, Quetta too, haven't been at their best so far in the tournament, although their 2-1 win-loss record doesn't reflect that and includes a victory over Lahore Qalandars which doesn't really count. Everyone and their mother has a victory over the Qalandars at this point.
The two-time finalists, however, did look back to their very best in Wednesday night's six-wicket win over Islamabad United — something which spells trouble for Zalmi. Kevin Pietersen, especially, looked incredibly good, proving that even at 37 he remains a force.
Quetta made two changes in the last game, replacing Rilee Rossouw and Jofra Archer with John Hastings and Mahmudullah. Hastings proved expensive so his place in the side could be under threat but Mahmudullah did not get to bat or bowl and may get another chance against Zalmi.
Zalmi did not fare well in their last game, meaning they could tweak their line-up a little.