Quetta Gladiators advance to PSL final

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Quetta snatched victory from nowhere.

Quetta Gladiators etched their name in the 2017 PSL final thanks to a stunning one-run win in an exact replica of the same match in last year’s tournament.

Then it was Aizaz Cheema who defended seven in the final over with two wickets.

This time it was the same equation and same end result, Mohammad Nawaz going for five, taking the wicket of Chris Jordan and seeing both Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali ran out as Peshawar somehow fell short once again on 199-9.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Nawaz whose four overs returned 3-51 but it was only his last that truly mattered.

For a sell-out crowd in Sharjah, it was just the contest they deserved as yet another of this year’s PSL matches went to the last over and last ball.

Quetta will now go on to contest this year’s final in Lahore on March 5, with the attention swiftly shifting on which of their foreign contingent will make the trip to Pakistan.

Among those faced with the decision are Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Rilee Rossouw and Tymal Mills, who all featured on Tuesday night.

The tournament isn’t over for Peshawar, who will face the winner of Wednesday night’s second Qualifying Final between Islamabad United and Karachi Kings in Dubai on Friday to determine Peshawar’s opponents in the showpiece.

But they will take some picking up after the brilliant Dawid Malan, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi put them in pole position until their stunning last over collapse.

Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators

  • Quetta Gladiators 200-7
  • Shehzad (71); Wahab (3-40)
  • Peshawar Zalmi 199-9
  • Hafeez (77); Nawaz (3-51)

The parallels with last year’s first Qualifying Final ran from start to finish, Quetta again put into bat first at the toss.

They were given a scintillating start by Ahmed Shehzad and Kevin Pietersen who maintained their inspired recent run of form.

Shehzad was in sublime touch, racing to 71 from just 38 balls and Pietersen was equally swift, hitting 40 from 22 balls as the pair put on 90 for the second wicket in six brisk overs.

But the pair’s departures rocked Quetta who, having raced to 132-3 inside the 12th over, went 39 balls without a boundary until Anwar Ali hit his first ball for four at the end of the 17th.

They should have coasted past 200 but instead finished up on 200-7, still a very good total but not one as daunting as they threatened earlier in the piece.

In response, Peshawar’s chase stalled from the off, Kamran Akmal and Marlon Samuels departing in just their second over.

Malan and Hafeez were charged with the repair job and it was slow going at 38-2 at the end of the powerplay but, crucially, no more wickets had perished.

The relaxed fielding restrictions also seemed to free Malan and Hafeez who gave their chase the urgency it craved.

They were relentless and for Hafeez, in particular, the innings was desperately needed after a combined 64 runs from his seven prior PSL innings this season brought widespread criticism for his own inclusion.

A raucous Sharjah crowd made their feelings clear, too, when the 36-year-old walked to the wicket to a smattering of boos in the most luke warm of receptions.

As the saying goes, you are only as good as your last innings and cricket fans can be a fickle bunch, proven by the adoring cheers directed at Hafeez as he put Quetta to the sword and, alongside Malan, charged towards their target.

Hafeez eventually departed for 77 to a standing ovation with his side in need of 59 from 37 balls and Afridi walking out to a feverish reception.

Malan would then succumb to Tymal Mills before Afridi took up the charge with 34 from just 13 balls  but their hopes of victory evaporated once their talisman departed.

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Karachi Kings progress to PSL Qualifying Finals

Barnaby Read 27/02/2017
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Karachi Kings once again live to fight another day in this year’s Pakistan Super League with a six-wicket win over Islamabad at Dubai International Stadium.

In a day dominated by rain in Dubai, Karachi progressed at the expense of Lahore Qalandars to set up a second Qualifying Final showdown in Sharjah on March 1 in a repeat of Sunday night’s match.

It means the first knockout fixtures are exact replicas of 2016, with Peshawar and Quetta meeting in the first Qualifying Final on Tuesday, March 28, also in Sharjah.

It was not until 8:30pm that the Islamabad squad, umpires and match referees reached the stadium but their arrival coincided with the cessation of the rain.

Karachi Kings had already been walking around the ground by then, probably hoping the rain would hold out, knowing that shared points was enough to guarantee their safe passage to the second Qualifying Final but defeat could see them crash out the tournament.

But they were made to earn their place in the next stage, a 15-over match finally getting underway at 9:30pm, a whole hour and a half after the scheduled start but a miraculous turnaround for a stadium deluged by the day’s persistent rain across Dubai.

That the game went ahead was testament to the superb work of head groundsman Tony Hemming and his team who lived up to their pre-match assurances that the pitch and outfield would need just half an hour to clear once the rain stopped.

Islamabad United vs Karachi Kings

  • Islamabad United 123-7
  • Smith (49); Sohail (2-23)
  • Karachi Kings
  • Gayle (44); Shadab (3-13) 127-4

Once play was possible, Karachi put Islamabad into bat, the reigning champions 123-7 thanks largely to leading run-scorer Dwayne Smith’s 49.

It meant Karachi needed a minimum of 111 in their chase to qualify and knock out Lahore Qalandars.

And Karachi were a team possessed in their run-chase, Chris Gayle finally showing something like his best form after being restored to the starting lineup with a punishing 44 from just 17 balls, an innings that included two fours and five sixes.

Kieron Pollard and Ravi Bopara then first saw their side over the 111-run threshold before sealing victory with a ball remaining to take yet more momentum into the knockout stages of the tournament.

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Inspired Afridi seals Peshawar's 1st Qualifying Final spot

Barnaby Read 25/02/2017
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Afridi was superb.

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.

Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators

  • Quetta Gladiators 128
  • Pietersen (41); Asghar (3-33)
  • Peshawar Zalmi
  • Afridi (); Mills ()

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.

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