KARACHI: The HBL Pakistan Super League’s greatest rivalry provided an entrancing Qualifier here at the National Stadium in which Quetta Gladiators overcame a determined Peshawar Zalmi resurgence to book their place in Sunday’s final, their third in the four editions of PSL.
The 10-run defeat now means that Darren Sammy’s men will get another chance to make the title-decider if they defeat either defending champions Islamabad United or Karachi Kings in Eliminator 2 on Friday after those sides clash in Thursday’s Eliminator 1.
While Shane Watson was the driving force behind Sarfraz Ahmed’s team reaching 186-6, Rilee Rossouw and Ahsan Ali became the most unlikely pair of wicket-takers following a frightening blow on specialist leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed’s face after he delivered ball number two of his second over to Imam-ul-Haq.
Mohammad Hasnain further enhanced his reputation as a genuine paceman. The 18-year-old from Hyderabad caused terror in the hearts of Zalmi batsmen and it was his dismissal of 44-year-old former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq that left Zalmi down and out at 90-5 in the 14th over.
But the match then turned on its head as Sammy and Kieron Pollard raised hopes of a remarkable victory for the 2017 champions with a brilliant sixth-wicket partnership of 83 in 36 balls.
But there was another twist in the tale. Watson came to the Gladiators’ rescue by removing Pollard (44 off 22 balls, six fours and one six) in his first bowl in a while.
The run-out of Sammy (46 off 21 balls, five sixes and two boundaries) ended Zalmi’s hopes after the last over began with them still requiring 21 runs.
With a bowler short, Sarfraz somehow made an excellent use of the resources available. His decision to use Rossouw after Fawad was assisted off the field turned out to be a master stroke. Pressed into the attack in an eventful 10th over, Rossouw doubled his number of T20 wickets to two when his first ball — an innocuous slow delivery — saw Imam (23 off 18 balls, three fours) lose not only his cool but also his wicket.
Ahsan put the Gladiators firmly in the driving seat as his first ball, a leg-break, in T20 cricket forced Liam Dawson to hole out to long on.
And with Mohammad Nawaz sending back Sohaib Maqsood and Hasnain having Kamran Akmal (22 off 26 balls, four boundaries) superbly taken just inside the deep square-leg boundary by Rossouw, the Gladiators had all but won.
Earlier, Watson played another superb innings after Zalmi drew first blood in the second over when Tymal Mills knocked back Ahmed Shehzad’s off stump with a full-length delivery as the right-hander played slightly across the line.
Watson consolidated his spot at the top of the batting chart with 423 runs in 11 innings. His 71 from only 43 balls, studded with six sixes and five fours, was the platform the Gladiators needed after Sammy elected to bowl first.
Ahsan contributed a priceless 46 featuring four fours and a brace of sixes. He proved a calming presence for man-of-the-match Watson during their decisive second-wicket partnership of 111 in 64 balls.
S.R. Watson b Wahab 71
Ahmed Shehzad b Mills 1
Ahsan Ali lbw b Sameen 46
R.R. Rossouw c and b Pollard 11
Umar Akmal c Imam b Wahab 22
Sarfraz Ahmed c Dawson b Hasan 12
D.J. Bravo not out 12
Mohammad Nawaz not out 2
EXTRAS: (LB-3, W-5, NB-1) 9
TOTAL: (for six wkts, 20 overs) 186
FALL OF WKTS: 1-3, 2-114, 3-125, 4-137, 5-165, 6-173.
DID NOT BAT: Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Hasnain, Fawad Ahmed.
BOWLING: Hasan Ali 4-0-39-1 (1nb); Mills 4-0-21-1 (2w); Dawson 2-0-27-0; Wahab Riaz 4-0-26-2; Sameen Gul 4-0-46-1; Pollard 2-0-24-1 (3w).
Kamran Akmal c Rossouw b Hasnain 22
Imam-ul-Haq b Rossouw 23
Sohaib Maqsood c and b Nawaz 7
Misbah-ul-Haq lbw b Hasnain 18
L.A. Dawson c sub b Ahsan 5
D.J.G. Sammy run out 46
K.A. Pollard b Watson 44
Wahab Riaz not out 0
Hasan Ali not out 3
EXTRAS: (LB-3, W-5) 8
TOTAL: (for seven wkts, 20 overs) 176
FALL OF WKTS: 1-41, 2-55, 3-61, 4-69, 5-90, 6-173, 7-173
DID NOT BAT: T.S. Mills, Sameen Gul.
BOWLING: Mohammad Nawaz 4-0-25-1; Sohail Tanvir 4-0-38-0 (1w); Mohammad Hasnain 4-1-28-2 (1w); Bravo 4-0-52-0 (2w); Fawad Ahmed 1.2-0-8-0 (1w); Rossouw 0.4-0-3-1; Ahsan Ali 1-0-9-1; Watson 1-0-10-1.
RESULT: Quetta Gladiators won by 10 runs.
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan) and R.E.J. Martinesz (Sri Lanka).
TV UMPIRE: Asif Yaqoob (Pakistan).
MATCH REFEREE: R.S. Mahanama (Sri Lanka).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shane Watson.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019