LAHORE: The first playoff of the Pakistan Super League III lived up to its expectations when Peshawar Zalmi won the thriller against Quetta Gladiators by just one run at the picturesque Gaddafi Stadium here on Tuesday evening. Despite some light rain, fans were undeterred in their determination to watch the match that marked the return of PSL action to Lahore after the historic city successfully hosted last year’s final in front of a roaring crowd of thousands. Peshawar will take on Karachi Kings in the second eliminator at the same venue on Wednesday (today) for place in the final to be played in Karachi on March 25.
Chasing an easy target of 158, Quetta could muster only 156 for the loss of nine scalps in the allotted 20 overs. Anwar Ali’s plundering of 22 runs in the final over went in vain as Quetta fell short of their target losing before a full house and being knocked out of the tournament. In the game with final-over drama, the all-rounder was asked to come up with 24 runs off the final six balls. He hit four boundaries, including three sixes, but his attempt for a one last maximum on the final ball saw him fell agonisingly short of completing a marvelous victory. Quetta were missing key trio of Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy – all of who opted against visiting Pakistan. In their absence, the two-time finalists drafted Thisara Perera, Mahmudullah and Tom Kohler-Cadmore into their line-ups.
Quetta run chase had a nightmare start as they lost the out-of-form Asad Shafiq on the opening ball of their innings. Cadmore, Shafiq’s opening partner, was also sent packing in the third over, with the excellent Hasan Ali picking his second wicket. With two wickets gone so early, the situation warranted a calm and dependable batter. In came captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who promoted himself up the order. His presence in the middle alongside Mohammad Nawaz meant that the leakage of wickets stopped but not at the cost of runs. At the end of 6 overs, the Gladiators were 49-2 and in need of 109 more runs from 14 overs – a very achievable task. The left-right duo handled Peshawar bowlers very well for the next four overs, taking their side to 79-2 after 9 overs. After their rocky start, Quetta were well and truly back in the game. But Sameen Gul’s 10th over change the scenario completely. Quetta suffered a series of setbacks when Umaid Asif removed both Mahmudullah and Rilee Rossouw within a single over. Fast bowler Wahab Riaz also took the wickets of Thisara Perera and Hassan Khan on scores of 12 and 0 respectively, which sealed the fate of Quetta.
Earlier, after being put in bat first, Peshawar managed to post 157 in their allotted overs, courtesy Liam Dawson’s stunning 62 off 35. For Quetta, pacer Rahat Ali was the best bowler on show as he claimed four wickets. Peshawar had a wobbly start, losing in-form Kamran Akmal for a three-ball duck to Rahat Ali. West Indian Andre Fletcher was dismissed soon after for 01, by Mir Hamza. But Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Hafeez led Peshawar’s recovery, taking the team past 50 without any further loss before Hafeez was bowled by Mahmudullah for 25 off 14. Dawson’s resistance, however, steadied Peshawar. His knock was exactly the tonic an innings floundering at 86 for 5 sorely needed.