A thrilling finish

Published March 20, 2023

IT was a Pakistan Super League final that had everything: thrills and spills, enthralling drama and a tantalisingly close finish. A game that went to the wire was won by a solitary run by Lahore Qalandars who created history by becoming the first repeat champions of the glitzy T20 tournament. Their skipper, Shaheen Shah Afridi, shone with bat and ball, before running out Khushdil Shah on the last ball of the contest. Shaheen and the Qalandars fulfilled their mission of successfully defending their crown, overcoming the Sultans in the final for the second year running. They were the best team once again; winning seven out of 10 matches in the league stage to finish on top. Second-placed Sultans, the 2021 champions, recorded a crushing win in the qualifier but the Qalandars bounced back to win the second eliminator against Peshawar Zalmi and book their spot in the final. The Sultans seemed in control until the last five overs of each innings, with Shaheen tilting the game in his side’s favour. He first smashed a quick-fire 44 and then took three wickets in the 18th over. Back came the Sultans, though, fighting till the end and losing by the narrowest of margins, just like the opening game of the season against the Qalandars.

The season opened with PCB’s interim management committee chairman Najam Sethi stating that his aim was to make PSL bigger and better. He concluded the season saying that PSL had surpassed the Indian Premier League in terms of digital ratings. The first season, played across four national venues, was a record-breaking one. It saw the most sixes and fours hit. It also delivered some compelling storylines, with Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam jumping ship and joining Zalmi. It meant games against his former side the Karachi Kings had added intrigue. Babar excelled with his bat, finishing as the second-highest run scorer to Sultans skipper Mohammad Rizwan, but came up short in his bid to lift his first PSL title as captain. Once again, PSL has unearthed future stars, notably player of the tournament Ihsanullah, who finished as the second-highest wicket-taker behind his Sultans teammate Abbas Afridi, and Zalmi batter Saim Ayub. Most importantly, PSL went on despite the unrest in Lahore, not only showcasing Pakistan’s ability as a cricket host but also helping to divert people’s minds from cantankerous politics.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023

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