Quetta Gladiators made it third-final lucky as they claimed the 2019 HBL Pakistan Super League final with an eight-wicket win over Peshawar Zalmi in Karachi.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s side had been the perennial bridesmaids since the inauguration of the PSL in 2016, as they were beaten in the first two finals, then exited in the playoffs in the third.
It is difficult to argue, though, that they were not the outstanding side in the competition’s fourth season. They might have finished second in the points table behind their opponents in the final.
But this was their fourth win out of four in matches against Peshawar this season. It might have felt a long-time coming, but Quetta are the most deserving winners.
The PSL continued its penchant for the surreal during its ceremonial parties. For example, Pitbull had been booked for the opening ceremony five weeks ago.
The American rapper always felt like an awkward fit for this competition – and he didn’t even show up in the end, citing problems with the airplane he was supposed to be flying to Dubai in.
Fast-forward 32 days and, for the closing ceremony ahead of the final, the guest of honour was none other than Carlos Puyol, the former Barcelona and Spain football captain.
“I know people here love cricket, but they also love football,” Puyol said, which did not quite reason out exactly what he was doing there.
Happily, the PSL has never really required quirks or gimmicks to market it. In particular, since the tournament moved back to Karachi on March 6, it has found a captive audience
For the final, every seat was taken, a 32,000 sell out. Ramiz Raja did his best to capture the moment, suggesting on commentary there were “zillions around the world” watching the game.
There or thereabouts, maybe. And, once the cricket began, they had plenty to savour.
The players, clearly, were unnerved by the size of the occasion. After fielding the very first ball of the game, an over-energised Umar Akmal had a shy at the stumps at the bowler’s end stumps.
He hit them, too, but there was no chance of a run out, and all he succeeded doing was to get his brother Kamran, Peshawar’s opening batsman, off the mark.
It was the start of a troubled night in the field for Umar Akmal. He let three runs straight through him via two separate misfields later in the innings, and dropped a simple chance off Daren Sammy, the Peshawar captain, in the 18th over.
Fortunately, it cost his Quetta side little. Mainly thanks to the excellence of Mohammed Hasnain, Quetta’s teenaged quick bowler who has been one of the finds of this tournament.
Hasnain, who will join Umar Akmal in the Pakistan tour squad to UAE to face Australia in a one-day international series next week, took three for 30.
His victims included Imam-ul-Haq, the in-form opener who made four half-centuries in this PSL, Umar Amin, who top-scored with 38, and slog-overs maestro Kieron Pollard.
It meant Quetta restricted the 2017 champions to 138 for eight from their 20 overs.
Even though Shane Watson, their Australian talisman, was run out early in the chase, Quetta rarely looked troubled in reply.
Ahmed Shahzad notched his fourth half-century of the competition, and was joined in a match-winning 74-run stand by Rilee Rossouw, as Quetta sealed the win with 12 balls to spare.