Gladiators are through to the final after winning by 1 run in an epic encounter!
The much anticipated playoff between undoubtedly the best two teams of the tournament kicked off in front of a packed audience in Dubai. With a place in the final on the line, Shahid Afridi won the toss and elected to field first. Zalmi’s opening bowlers were on song with the Gladiators getting off to a disastrous start!
The young Bismillah Khan who impressed in his previous outing was dismissed on the second ball of the innings by Hasan Ali. Shehzad followed him back to the pavilion in the fourth over as he was stumped by Kamran Akmal off Mohammad Asghar, with Quetta struggling at 11/2. It was up to the legendary Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin Pietersen to rescue their team in this crunch encounter and both batsmen built their innings in glorious fashion.
Pietersen took charge and took on the bowlers with some big hits, while Sangakkara displayed his class with beautiful cricketing shots to keep the runs flowing. Tait was put away for three boundaries by Sangakkara in the sixth over as the pair kicked up their gear to dominate Zalmi’s bowling attack.
Pietersen went about his business and hit Darren Sammy for back to back sixes. The partnership went along at a run rate of over 9 an over, and put on 79 runs before Sangakkara miscued one shot and was caught in the deep by Bairstow.
After the first twelve overs, Quetta Gladiators were 90/3. Peshawar Zalmi struck back once that partnership was broken. Sarfraz was caught and bowled for a duck by Afridi, and Pietersen (53 from 38 balls) followed one over later as he was caught at mid off by Hasan Ali off Shaun Tait.
Without a set batsman on the crease, Gladiators struggled towards the end of the innings and failed to finish strongly. Mohammad Nawaz hit a few shots for six, but his stay came to an early end as he too was picked up after scoring 20 runs from 18 deliveries. Zalmi began to dominate after that dismissal and took wickets at will. The Gladiators’ tail crumbled under pressure and they lost three wickets in three balls, as they were all out for 133.
This total was easily 20-30 runs short of what they could have achieved, and Zalmi had one foot in the final with that performance in the field.
With Tamim having left the HBL PSL, Kamran Akmal opened the innings for Zalmi along with Mohammad Hafeez. The Gladiators needed quick wickets early on to have any chance of defending their modest total. Aizaz Cheema was hit for plenty of runs in the third over, with Peshawar looking firmly in control of the match.
It all changed when Anwar Ali bowled a peach of a delivery, an inswinging off cutter to bowl out Akmal in the fifth over. It all started happening in Dubai when the talented Nawaz came in to bowl a magical sixth over. He bowled out Hafeez with a clever arm ball which slided in with good bounce on his first ball.
He followed that up with one of the balls of the tournament to bowl out Brad Hodge for a golden duck on the very next delivery and suddenly the Gladiators were back in it with Nawaz on a hat trick! He didn’t get there as Bairstow blocked the next ball, but the damage had been done with Zalmi lurking at 32/3 after six overs.
Shahid Yousuf and Jonny Bairstow were held back by the bowlers in the next few overs and struggled to find their feet. Nawaz kept bowling exquisitely and was hard to put away for runs, while Elliott joined in on the act and built up the pressure on the batsmen.
He bowled out Bairstow to put Quetta in control of proceedings and dismissed Yousuf in his next over, as Zalmi’s batsmen could not handle the pressure and were in dire straits at 68-5 after thirteen overs. Things got out of hands for Peshawar when their captain Shahid Afridi became Elliott’s third victim and fell cheaply after scoring only 2 runs.
Darren Sammy was in the middle and knew it was up to him to take Zalmi home. He took the initiative and took on all the bowlers with some mighty hits all around the ground, with Wahab Riaz supporting him on the other end. He raced to 32 runs from 29 balls before being caught at long on with Nawaz picking up another wicket. Sammy’s efforts put Zalmi back in the match, as they required 21 runs from the last two overs.
Hasan Ali hit his first ball in the HBL PSL for a beautiful boundary off Anwar Ali to put pressure back on the Gladiators. Wahab flicked another boundary in the same over as Zalmi gained momentum and clawed their way back in the match. Anwar bowled a poor second last over, leaving Zalmi to get 8 runs from the last 6 balls.
Wahab punished Aizaz’s full toss and hit him for four on the very first ball! With 3 runs needed from 3 balls, Hasan Ali lofted one up in the air and was caught safely by Cheema. Wahab fell on the very next ball with the game changing hands once again! There was intense drama in the middle as Zalmi needed 3 runs from the last ball with Cheema on a hat trick!
Cheema held off the Asghar on the last ball, sending Quetta Gladiators through to the final winning the match by 1 run! The Gladiators were ecstatic, with Sir Vivian Richards running out on to the field to congratulate everyone. Quetta Gladiators are in the final as they continue to dazzle in the HBL PSL. Who will join them? We’ll find out soon enough.