The 2018 HBL Pakistan Super League enjoyed a glorious finale in front of a packed crowd at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday night. Islamabad United added a second title to the one they won in 2016, at the end of a tournament full of entertainment.
1 Lala’s catch
For all the flashy launch ceremonies, with their laser shows and celebrities, nothing sells a tournament quite like some opening game theatre.
In 2016, the first PSL had a hat-trick for the storied seam-bowler Mohammed Amir on its opening weekend in Dubai.
Last December, the T10 League could not have scripted a more blockbusting start than Shahid Afridi, Sharjah’s favourite cricketer, taking a hat-trick with the first three balls he bowled.
Afridi was the headline act at the beginning of PSL 3, too. By now playing alongside Amir at Karachi Kings, the soon-to-be 38-year-old veteran took a thrilling boundary catch more suited to cricket’s next generation.
Running backwards at long-on, he caught the ball one-handed while racing towards the boundary marker, relayed it back inside the playing area, spun round, and finished his remarkable act by standing on the mat bearing the logo of his new franchise.
2 Jones wears a suit
Dean Jones has never been shy of a novel idea over the course of a colourful playing, broadcasting, and coaching career.
He cut a dash at PSL 3 by the simple method of wearing a suit, rather than tracksuit. He was more like a football manager than a cricket coach. He was attempting to convey status, he said.
“I have enough coaches to throw balls,” said the coach of eventual champions Islamabad United. “I think it’s a prestigious position. It is an honour and a privilege to coach this team. I like wearing suits, I don’t like wearing tracksuits.
“I think I’m better looking in a suit. It is something we looked at, and I’m just trying to improve the image of being the head coach of Islamabad.”
3 Trademark (non) celebrations
Wahab Riaz stroking his moustache. Hasan Ali’s exploding arms. Umaid Asif’s Iron Man t-shirt. Yasir Shah shaking it all about.
The PSL is never short of orchestrated celebrations following wickets. Two of the most memorable responses to dismissals in PSL 3, though, were conspicuous for their understatement.
Shaheen Afridi, the new left-arm whizz-kid for Lahore Qalandars, showed admirable restraint when picking up the wicket of his namesake Shahid.
The older Afridi showed he does a good line in respect where it is warranted, too, when he kept his arms down upon dismissing Misbah-ul-Haq.
4 So, hail Yasir
Contretemps between opposing players in the heat of battle are a part of the game, but there have been relatively few significant clashes between teammates in the PSL.
One notable – and hilarious – exception, was when fast-bowler Sohail Khan attempted to get the attention of Yasir Shah to move his fielding position, late in Lahore’s bowling effort against Quetta.
The din from the Sharjah crowd must have been too noisy for Yasir to register what he was saying. So the big fast bowler threw the ball at him instead.
5 Hasan Khan
Hasan Khan’s stats in his debut PSL season were pretty meh. The teenaged left-arm spinner took six wickets at 31, with an economy rate of 6.67. He did have one great moment in the sun, though.
In a match where Umar Gul took six wickets and Shoaib Malik batted like a prince, it was Hasan who earned a hug from a great.
He hit the penultimate ball for six in Dubai to give Quetta a win over Multan Sultans, prompting Sir Viv Richards to run onto the field an envelope him in a bear hug.
6 KP’s last stand
Not much of Kevin Pietersen’s career has passed without at least one of pomp, ceremony, or major controversy going with it.
And yet, it barely seemed to occur to anyone at the time that his last ever match was, in fact, going to be his last ever match.
On the last weekend and the 28th game of the league phase, Pietersen scored seven for Quetta Gladiators in a loss to Islamabad United.
Because of the way the results went thereafter, Quetta progressed straight to playoffs in Pakistan. Pietersen opted out of travelling – meaning his career was over. “Boots up! Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter, to sign off.
No curtain-call. No encore. That’s it, see you later, you’ll find me with the rhinos.
7 One-legged Zalmi
It often felt as though Peshawar Zalmi were defending their title while playing on one leg.
Or at least, a couple of their star performers battled on through leg injuries.
Darren Sammy, their leader, barely missed any game time, despite sustaining a knee injury that meant he limped through most of it and may need an operation now.
And Kamran Akmal saw them though to a trip back to Pakistan with a second blistering half-century in the space of two days in Sharjah, despite being severely inhibited by the effects of cramp.
8 Ronchi’s brutality
Champions Islamabad have come to epitomise the adage about tournaments not being about how you start, but how you finish.
They did not start anywhere near as slowly as they did when they won the first competition two years ago. But they still stepped on the accelerator and kept the hammer down when it was the business end of PSL 3.
Chief protagonist was Luke Ronchi, who delivered a variety of vicious efforts with the bat.
Curiously, when he was at his most savage, during a 19-ball half-century in the qualifier playoff in Dubai, one supported celebrated him by unfurling a “Wenger Out” placard.
9 Anwar’s ambush
When a team is defending 25 to win off the last over, they have usually all but started the celebrations.
Liam Dawson, the Peshawar all-rounder, got more than he bargained for when trying to close out the first eliminator play-off against Quetta.
Defending a quarter of a century, Anwar Ali essayed a flurry of sixes over the short boundary in Lahore – but eventually fell one run short. Dawson might suggest the win was never in doubt.
10 Shadab’s headlock
Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah apart, PSL 3 has generally been a most cordial tournament. Tempers did fray vaguely when the pressure was at its height in the final.
In the throes of the run-chase, Hasan Ali dismissed his Pakistan national team colleague Shadab Khan, then gave him a voluble send off from close range.
It was Shadab’s Islamabad who made it over the line, though, and Shadab celebrated by getting his mate in a headlock. When he released him Hasan went running off with a broad grin on his face.
Sreesanth versus Harbajhan Singh this certainly was not.