Peshawar and Quetta were the two standout teams in the league stage of the PSL with both sides finishing with seven wins each from their 10 matches.
Darren Sammy’s Peshawar are bidding to enter the final for the third time in a row after lifting the trophy in 2017 before finishing as the runners-up in the 2018 edition.
Entering the Qualifier after topping the league standings, Peshawar have been growing in dominance with each game. A world-class bowling unit has been their primary calling card in the tournament so far with Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali leading the charge.
Hasan Ali has been exceptional with the pacer leading the wicket-taking charts with 21 scalps in his 10 matches at an economy-rate of only 6.36. The 24-year-old has been ably supported by Wahab Riaz who has chipped in with 13 wickets.
In the batting order, openers Kamran Akmal and Imam-ul-Haq have been key with their consistency at the top. Add in their numerous power-hitters like Kieron Pollard, Liam Dawson and Darren Sammy and it is not hard to see why Peshawar have stumbled upon a winning formula.
Peshawar Zalmi's pacers have taken 52 wickets in #HBLPSL 2019, conceding at 7.37 rpo. Across all editions only four times team pacers have picked up 50+ wickets in a season - Peshawar : 56 in 2018, Islamabad : 53 in 2018, Karachi : 50 in 2018. #KKvPZ pic.twitter.com/yjBA7QboGg— PakistanSuperLeague (@thePSLt20) March 11, 2019
Quetta, on the other hand, have been equally impressive in the league stage but Sarfraz Ahmed and his men come into the Qualifier on the back of a dramatic one-run loss to Karachi Kings.
The Gladiators required just five runs for victory in the final over against Karachi but collapsed sensationally against Usman Shinwari. It was the first time that Quetta have tasted defeat in the PSL while chasing.
In their seven wins so far, six have come while chasing a target successfully and the team will back themselves to do it again despite the blip against Karachi.
Former Pakistan pacer Sohail Tanvir and spinner Mohammad Nawaz have been key to the side in the bowling department and have picked up 15 and 11 wickets respectively in the tournament so far.
Young pacer Mohammad Hasnain has impressed with his raw speed in his maiden PSL campaign with his seven dismissals earning him a call up for the Pakistan ODI squad.
With the bat, Australia veteran Shane Watson has been the star, leading the run-scoring charts with 352 of them in 10 matches. While Watson was instrumental to Quetta’s excellent start, it has been Ahmed Shehzad who has been the main man in recent matches.
The top-order batsman had registered half-centuries in each of his last three innings and was unlucky to be dismissed on 99 in the one-run loss to Karachi.
Quetta also have Umar Akmal who has forced his way back into the Pakistan ODI squad after a tidy campaign and as such, are looking very formidable in the batting department. Like Peshawar, Quetta too are bidding to reach the PSL final for the third time in their history after finishing as the runners-up in the 2016 and 2017 editions.
The winner of the Qualifier advances straight to the final to be held on March 17 at Karachi. The loser of the tie will get a second bite at the cherry when they take on the winner of the first Eliminator at Karachi on March 15.
Peshawar Zalmi have been handed a boost ahead of their qualifier with England all-rounder Chris Jordan rejoining the squad after completing his international duties in the West Indies.
Peshawar Zalmi: Kamran Akmal (wk), Imam-ul-Haq, Liam Dawson, Kieron Pollard, Sohaib Maqsood, Darren Sammy (c), Chris Jordan, Umar Amin, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Sameen Gul.
Quetta Gladiators: Shane Watson, Ahmed Shehzad, Rilee Rossouw, Umar Akmal, Dwayne Bravo, Anwar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (c and wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Hasnain, Fawad Ahmed.
It was a clash Karachi Kings had to win by a handsome margin to harbour any hopes of finishing in the top two of PSL 2019 table and make it to the first Qualifier. However, it was Peshawar Zalmi who emerged comprehensive victors by 61 runs in the final league game of the season.
Opener Kamran Akmal blasted 86 from just 48 balls – with 10 fours and five sixes – to help Peshawar post 203-7 in their 20 overs in Karachi on Monday. Fellow opener Imam-ul-Haq had kept the innings together with a composed 59 from 40 balls as Peshawar sped to 137 for the opening wicket inside 14 overs.
The pitch at the National Stadium has been especially flat and with a super fast outfield and extremely short boundaries, Karachi were expected to give it a good go. However, the entire top order crumbled under the scoreboard pressure as Karachi were shot out for 142 in 16.2 overs at their home ground.
Peshawar pacers were on the money from the word go with Hasan Ali removing the dangerous Colin Munro lbw for nought although replays suggested the ball was heading down the leg side.
OUT! Quicker delivery from @tmills15 and @CAIngram41's innings of 71 comes to an end. Karachi Kings are 125/6 in the 14th over— Cricingif (@_cricingif) March 11, 2019
Ball-by-ball scorecard 👉 https://t.co/txUvlMloWS #KKvPZ #PSL2019 #KhelDeewanoKa #CricketForAll pic.twitter.com/kOS0r37kZH
Babar Azam was caught driving while left-arm quick Tymal Mills had in-form Liam Livingstone caught at mid-on off a slower ball bouncer.
But Karachi didn’t throw in the towel. Middle order dasher Colin Ingram kept the asking rate within reach by blasting 71.
But wickets kept falling and Ingram too departed after hitting four sixes and seven fours during his 37-ball knock. The next highest scorer was captain Imad Wasim. Hasan ended up with 3-15 while Mills and Wahab Riaz picked up two wickets each. Captain Imad (30) was one of only three batsmen to reach three figures, showing how much they had been outplayed.
Peshawar thus moved to the top of the points table, followed by Quetta Gladiators, Islamabad United and Karachi. Peshawar will face Quetta in the Qualifier while the winner from the Eliminator between Islamabad and Karachi will face the loser of the first Qualifier for a spot in the final.
Both Peshawar Zalmi and Karachi Kings have qualified for the PSL 2019 playoffs. However, their clash in Karachi on Monday will still have a lot riding on it – namely a spot in the Qualifier or Eliminator.
Peshawar have six wins and if they win their seventh on Monday, they will meet Quetta Gladiators in the first Qualifier, with the losing team of that clash getting another chance against the winner of the Eliminator between the third and fourth placed teams.
If Karachi, who have five wins so far, manage to win by a huge margin – 85 runs or chase inside nine overs – they would be tied with Peshawar on wins and ahead on net run rate, which would place them second in the points table.
Will Peshawar avoid a meltdown? Will Karachi spring a big surprise? Catch the live updates below.