DUBAI: Quetta Gladiators’ never-say-die approach came to the fore yet again in the HBL Pakistan Super League here on Wednesday night in a very tense run chase, while even Umar Gul’s best T20 spell of his career failed to get Multan Sultans over the last stride.
Multan, in hindsight, had done enough on the back of skipper Shoaib Malik’s unbeaten 65 off 43 balls (four fours and three sixes) by posting 152-5 after being sent in to bat before Gul put them in the driving seat.
Multan, the outright leaders in the six-team franchise with nine points and all but guaranteed a playoff spot, were within touching distance of sealing their fifth success in seven matches as Gul chipped away at the lower-order Quetta batting after breaking the 48-run opening partnership between Asad Shafiq (20) and Shane Watson (26).
The discarded Pakistan seamer, competing for the first time in this edition, added four more to those two wickets to end up with 6-24 — while bettering his famous 5-6 spell in the 2009 World Twenty20 fixture against New Zealand at The Oval and also recording the second best figures in the PSL history — but the heroics from the 33-year-old were not enough as Hassaan Khan kept his cool to send a Kieron Pollard slower one for probably the most vital six from Quetta’s perspective when three runs were required from the last two deliveries of a pulsating fixture.
Quetta had come into the match on the back of two straight defeats in Sharjah, including a nine-wicket hammering against the same opponents just four nights before. Another loss here surely would have seriously jeopardised the prospects of twice runners-up’s qualifying for the playoffs. But Sarfraz Ahmed’s charges not only infused a fresh breath of air into the tournament but now have the momentum to carry into their Thursday’s night fixture against Karachi Kings.
Sir Vivian Richards, the Quetta mentor, wouldn’t have asked for a more appropriate moment to culminate a day during which he celebrated his 66th birthday. The legendary West Indies star’s broad smile was there in full flow as he tucked merrily into the chocolate-flavoured cake as the TV crew recorded the momentous occasion.
On the other hand, Gul, replacing Junaid Khan in the playing XI here, rued being hoisted for a brace of sixes in the space of three balls by Anwar Ali and Mohammad Nawaz during the penultimate over — that started with Multan firmly in box seat with 22 runs to defend — which went for 13 runs and the wickets of both batsmen.
“The end result was extremely disappointing for us. Personally speaking, my comeback was beyond imagination because I never thought of taking so many wickets in my first appearance,” Gul, who was on Quetta’s payroll in the first two tournaments, remarked while talking to the media.
“It is not common for somebody to take six wickets in a T20 game and yet end up on the wrong side. But at least, from a personal point of view, I’m happy to have achieved what the team management had expected from me.”
But even the comedy of errors from former England opener Tim Robinson, now an international umpire, could come to Multan’s rescue.
K.C. Sangakkara c Hassaan b Nawaz 0 Ahmed Shehzad c Sarfraz b Anwar 1 Sohaib Maqsood lbw b Laughlin 27 Sohail Tanvir b Watson 19 Shoaib Malik not out 65 R.A. Whiteley c Laughlin b Rahat 16 K.A. Pollard not out 15
EXTRAS (LB-3, W-6) 9 TOTAL (for five wkts, 20 overs) 152 FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-3, 3-41, 4-81, 5-119. DID NOT BAT: Saif Badar, Umar Gul, Imran Tahir, Mohammad Irfan. BOWLING: Mohammad Nawaz 3-0-18-1; Anwar Ali 3-0-24-1 (2w); Rahat Ali 4-0-24-1 (3w); Laughlin 4-0-37-1; Watson 4-0-37-1 (1w); Hassaan Khan 2-0-9-0.
Asad Shafiq c Imran b Umar 20 S.R. Watson c Saif b Umar 26 K.P. Pietersen lbw b Malik 5 R.R. Rossouw c Whiteley b Umar 27 Rameez Raja b Imran 22 Sarfraz c sub b Umar 11 Anwar Ali c Imran b Umar 15 Mohammad Nawaz c Pollard b Umar 11 Hassaan Khan not out 9 B. Laughlin not out 3 EXTRAS (W-5, NB-2) 7 TOTAL (for eight wkts, 19.5 overs) 156 FALL OF WKTS: 1-48, 2-54, 3-62, 4-90, 5-114, 6-118, 7-144, 8-144. DID NOT BAT: Rahat Ali. BOWLING: Sohail Tanvir 4-0-37-0 (1w); Mohammad Irfan 4-0-32-0 (1nb); Imran Tahir 4-0-24-1; Umar Gul 4-0-24-6; Shoaib Malik 2-0-18-1; Pollard 1.5-0-21-0 (1nb). RESULT: Quetta Gladiators won by two wickets. UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and R.T. Robinson (England). TV UMPIRE: Ahmed Shahab (Pakistan). MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Anees (Pakistan). MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Umar Gul.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018