Cricket’s homecoming in Pakistan saw Peshawar Zalmi clinch the 2017 Pakistan Super League title after romping to a 58-run win over Quetta Gladiators.
A makeshift Quetta crumbled in their pursuit of 149, their batting lineup clearly missing the foreign firepower of Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Rossouw and Luke Wright who decided against making the trip.
The win will be significant for Peshawar as the second PSL champions but the night will be remembered more so as the first of its kind to be held in Pakistan for a decade.
Spotted in the Lahore crowd at the Gadaffi Stadium on Sunday night was a fan bearing a homemade sign declaring “Pakistan wins today” and it was clear that the evening belonged to the country and its cricket-mad population.
And the sight of two Pakistan teams singing their national anthem on home soil with the world watching was a memorable one that will have stirred emotions for all watching on.
In the pre-amble, Peshawar’s foreign players were hailed for making the trip, Quetta named an entirely new five man overseas contingent, the crowd bulged and eyes were fixed on the surrounds of the stadium, praying the match would pass without incident.
The situation certainly wasn’t lost on Peshawar skipper Darren Sammy, who has become the unlikely face of both this year’s PSL and the country’s ambition to return international cricket to Pakistan.
At the toss, Sammy simply hoped for a good game of cricket. Thankfully, as Zulfiqar Babar bounced to the crease to bowl the first delivery, the rest of the night allowed the spectacle of the final to take centre stage like any other game of cricket anywhere else in the world albeit with 10,000 plus security personnel in place.
Resurgent talisman Kamran Akmal made early hay until slow left-armers Hasan Khan and Mohammad Nawaz put the breaks on with a wicket apiece in consecutive balls, including that of Akmal.
Hasan had a second in his next over as Peshawar slipped from 82-1 in the tenth over to 87-4 after 12.
Foreign final specialist Rayad Emrit was the other man to do damage with the ball by taking three wickets before being blitzed for 18 in the penultimate over as Sammy led a late assault.
His 28 from 11 balls saw Peshawar to 148-6, Sammy playing up to the incredibly warm reception to his presence from the crowd.
The Quetta chase was a procession of wickets, their challenge clearly hit by their lack of foreigners which did dilute the competitiveness of the final.
But in the wider schemes of things, that woman with the sign hit the nail on the head and no-one in either side would begrudge Pakistan winning the day over their franchise.