Peshawar Zalmi guaranteed their place in the top-two of the Pakistan Super League and their spot in Tuesday’s first Qualifying Final thanks to a classic Shahid Afridi innings that downed Quetta Gladiators Saturday night.
Afridi entered the picture with his side in dire need of inspiration and he provided just that with 45 from 23 balls at a strike-rate of 195 to see his side home with four balls to spare and just two wickets in hand.
It was another woeful night for Quetta who has now snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in their last two matches to move from top to second and in danger of ending up third and in need of at least two more wins to reach the final.
After being put into bat, Quetta’s total of 128 all-out was well below par, even on a slow pitch taking sharp, big turn.
That they got as many as they did was down to an 86-run partnership between Kevin Pietersen (41) and Rilee Rossouw (38), with only Mohammad Nawaz (18) the only Gladiator to reach double figures.
Peshawar would have been delighted with their bowling display, Hasan Ali (2-22) and Wahab Riaz (2-17) the standout seamers, while Mohammad Asghar (3-33) impressed with his slow left-armers as the 18-year-old registered his best bowling figures of the PSL to date.
But the Zalmi response began awfully as they slumped to 89-7 by the time Mohammad Hafeez departed for a laboured 22.
He and Kamran Akmal (26) were the only batsmen in the top-seven to pass seven runs but both scored at below a run-a-ball.
There was no impetus in the Peshawar chase but, typically, Afridi wasn’t going down without a fight and two boundaries from number 10 Hasan meant Peshawar needed just seven to win.
An Afridi four first ball meant the rest was elementary.
Karachi Kings saviour Kieron Pollard’s last-ball heroics on Saturday night saw his team remain in the tournament by the skin of their teeth and while it seemed like no-one else in the Dubai stadium were confident of a Karachi win, Pollard was.
The West Indian hit two sixes off the final two balls of the match to leave Karachi within one final win of reaching the Qualifying Finals of this year’s PSL.
With 28 needed off the final two overs and then 10 from the last two balls, it looked far more likely that Karachi would make an ignominious exit at the group stage and Lahore Qalandars safely into the next phase of the competition.
Pollard explained that his priority was to make contact with the ball first, confident that he had the ability to clear the boundary despite the heightened pressure.
First of all, to keep a cool head, we’re just trying to make contact with the deliveries first,” he said. “To get runs, you have to make contact with the ball and it’s just a matter of making contact.
“And with keeping calm when you look at it, it’s just a cricket match at the end of the day. Yes, if we had lost we’d have got knocked out but it’s not a life or death situation so it makes no sense stressing too much about it. There’s so many things in life to stress about than stressing in a cricket match.”
Aamer Yamin was the bowler that bore the brunt of Pollard’s belligerence and the West Indian all-rounder believes his reputation for such powerful hitting puts pressure on the bowler despite the odds being stacked in their favour.
“Obviously my reputation around the world is for hitting sixes so obviously I know once I’m there that the bowler is going to be under pressure as well and it’s just a matter of trying to execute and getting ball on to bat and luckily enough tonight it went our way,” he added before explaining that such a dramatic win will boost Karachi but they are keenly aware of how tough their route to the title is.
“In T20 cricket these sort of games change momentum,” said Pollard. “Guys start to believe a bit more and that’s what we need in our dressing room.
“We had a frank chat today at the hotel and we knew we had to come up and come out big tonight. It’s a big task because to go all the way through now, we have to win four games but at the end of the day we live to see another day.”
Islamabad United pulled off an incredible one-run win over Quetta Gladiators as Mohammad Sami celebrated his 36th birthday with a remarkable final over.
Needing five to win from the last, Quetta somehow missed the chance to seal top spot in the group stage when victory looked certain.
Instead, Islamabad confirmed their place in the Qualifying Finals as Sami went for just three runs in the most remarkable of comeback victories.
Set 166 for victory, Quetta initially made light work of the target thanks to a superb 133-run partnership between Ahmed Shehzad and Kevin Pietersen for the second wicket.
Both players were dismissed in successive deliveries, Pietersen wrongly given out lbw to Shadab Khan before Shehzad found Shadab on the long-on boundary off Sami, the young leg-spinner completing a stunning catch to give his side a semblance of hope.
Pietersen’s 69 from just 43 balls was another stellar knock from the former England man while it was Shehzad’s second fifty in as many days and matches to put Quetta in pole position.
But, with just seven needed from the last two overs, Rilee Rossouw and Anwar Ali imploded, unable to see their side over the line and handing Islamabad all the points.