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.
With the Pakistan Super League coming to a close, Sport360’s Barnaby Read picked his team of the tournament.
After the competition ended its Dubai leg and headed to Lahore for the final, there were plenty of players that stood out.
Here, we pick according to league rules in that there is a maximum of four foreign players and one emerging player must be picked.
For Pakistan cricket, the fact it has been so hard to pick just one emerging player and that so many national players both in and out of the squad played so well, there are real positives to take from this year’s PSL.
What do you make of the team and who makes it into your best XI?
Peshawar Zalmi will contest Quetta Gladiators in the final of this year’s Pakistan Super League in Lahore on Sunday after a 24-run win over Karachi Kings in the third Qualifying Final at Dubai International Stadium on Friday night.
Peshawar was hoping to avenge defeat at the same stage of last year’s tournament when Sharjeel Khan’s century put them to the sword.
Like then, Peshawar went into the match after defeat to Quetta in the first qualifier but this time it was the men in yellow inspired by a centurion of their own.
Kamran Akmal’s superb hundred fuelled the Peshawar charge after being put into bat, forming first a 97-run opening partnership with Dawid Malan (36) and then a 77-run stand for the second wicket with Marlon Samuels (37*).
Akmal eventually departed in the final over, attempting a suicidal second run, his innings bringing the sell-out Dubai crowd to their feet in appreciation.
It was the continuation of Akmal’s resurgence, which has seen him score two half centuries for Zalmi this seaso.
His latest knock was that of a big game player standing up and being counted when his team needed him to. Coming from just 65 balls, Akmal’s 104 included six fours and seven sixes, as Peshawar posted a healthy 181-3 from their 20 overs.
The Karachi response wobbled in just the second over, Babar Azam falling to Chris Jordan to leave them 2-1 and on the ropes.
Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi
Peshawar Zalmi 181-3
Akmal (104); Amir (1-31)
Karachi Kings 157-7
Pollard (47); Wahab (3-24)
Next man Kumar Sangakkara wasn’t to last long, top edging Wahab Riaz to Samuels for 15 to leave Karachi 19-2 and their hopes of reaching Sunday’s final teetering.
Just two balls and no runs later Karachi dreams faded further as Shoaib Malik was held superbly by Mohammad Hafeez at mid-on for a golden duck, handing Jordan his second wicket.
The revolving door at the opposite end to Chris Gayle kept spinning, Ravi Bopara the next to depart for just six and Karachi 39-4 by the time Kieron Pollard entered the picture.
Gayle raced from two from 15 balls to 27 from 24, taking a particular liking to Shahid Afridi by launching the Peshawar all-rounder into the stands three times in his first two overs.
If Karachi were to advance they needed the kind of devastating innings that have made Gayle the most successful player in the history of T20 cricket and Pollard; Karachi’s go-to man this season.
It wasn’t to be for Gayle, Wahab bowling the West Indian for 40 from 31 balls with a sumptuous slower ball yorker.
The onus shifted to Pollard to fire his side to victory once more and he certainly relished the challenge, launching three enormous sixes en route to taking the required total to 71 runs from the final six overs.
Unfortunately for Karachi, not even Pollard could rescue them this time around.