PSL 2019: Three players to watch as Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi battle in final

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Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi will each be playing in their third Pakistan Super League (PSL) final when they face off in Karachi on Sunday for the 2019 title.

While Peshawar succeeded in lifting the trophy in 2017, beating Quetta in the final, their opponents are yet to taste success.

The two sides have enjoyed a fine rivalry this season as well. Peshawar pipped Quetta to top spot during the league stage but have lost to them three times.

Here, we look at the players who could help decide the winner.

SHANE WATSON

Leading the run-scoring charts with a tally of 423 so far, Shane Watson is naturally the first name that comes to mind. The explosive opener has the ability to take the game away from the opposition and will be desperate to shine in his first PSL final.

Having turned out for the Pakistan leg of the tournament for the first time this year, the Australian also has the opportunity to break Luke Ronchi’s record for the most runs in a single season (435 in 2018), needing just 13 runs to do so.

Peshawar Zalmi will be especially wary of Watson having been on the receiving end of his wrath twice this year. He scored an unbeaten 91 off 55 balls during Quetta Gladiators’ victory over them in Abu Dhabi before hitting 71 off 43 in the Karachi Qualifier.

KAMRAN AKMAL

With the title on the line, you need experienced heads to lead the way and you can’t do much better than Kamran Akmal in that regard. The 37-year-old is the PSL’s top run-scorer of all time with 1265 under his belt.

He’s been there and done it with Peshawar already – and against Quetta as well. Akmal was the Player of the Series and top-scored with 40 runs when Peshawar beat Quetta in the 2017 final to lift the title.

In Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard, Zalmi’s batting runs deep but they can only truly capitalise when someone like Akmal lays the foundation for the innings at the top. The Pakistani opener has come into form at the business end of the season with all three of his half centuries this campaign coming in the last five matches. He’s also registered scores of 22, 49 and 72 against Quetta this season.

HASAN ALI

Despite boasting a formidable batting order, bowling remains Peshawar’s calling card. That’s no surprise given their attack includes two of the top three wicket-takers this season in Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz.

The latter is the PSL’s top wicket-taker of all time with 64 scalps across four seasons but it’s his team-mate – almost 10 years his junior – who’s been a sensation this season. Ali leads the charts with 25 wickets this term, which is already the most in a single season.

The 24-year-old seamer has used his variations to good effect this campaign and shone in the second Eliminator against holders Islamabad United with figures of 3-29, dismissing the dangerous opening pair of Luke Ronchi and Cameron Delport before claiming Hussain Talat’s wicket as well.

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PSL 2019 Final: Quetta Gladiators hold edge over Peshawar in the quest for maiden title

Ashish Peter 16/03/2019
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The two captains with the trophy. Image - @thePSLt20/Twitter.

The cream has indeed risen to the top as Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi prepare to battle for the 2019 Pakistan Super League (PSL) title at Karachi on Sunday.

The two teams have clearly been a cut above the rest in the competition this season and have arrived at the final on the back of equally impressive campaigns.

Quetta are searching for their maiden PSL title after finishing runners-up on two previous occasions while 2017 champions Peshawar are making their third straight appearance in the final.

It is the Gladiators who hold the slight edge over Zalmi heading into the final at the National Stadium with Sarfraz Ahmed and his men emerging victorious on all three occasions the two teams have clashed this season including the Qualifier.

That fact is not perturbing Peshawar skipper Darren Sammy who is relishing the prospect of going into the final as underdogs.

“I would like to be an underdog but to be fair Quetta has played some good cricket,” the Peshawar skipper said on the eve of the clash.

“Quetta has had the better of us throughout the season and I always tell my boys that everything in life happens for a reason. If it is one time we chose to beat them why not in the final when it really matters.

“Hopefully, it’s a cracker of a game and we find ways and means to execute our plans against them and we will need that.”

WHERE PESHAWAR CAN WIN THE FINAL

While they have been generally strong in all departments, it has been their formidable bowling unit which has been Peshawar’s calling card throughout the campaign.

Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali has been the driving force behind Peshawar’s impressive run with the 24-year-old leading the wicket-taking charts by some distance. Hasan has picked up 25 wickets in just 12 matches this season and he has been ably complemented by Wahab Riaz who has 16 scalps of his own.

While both pacers have been prolific with regards to wickets, they have been equally impressive with their economy-rates as well with the pair going at less than seven runs an over.

If Hasan and Wahab can get on top of Quetta’s batting order, Peshawar will fancy their chances of a second PSL title.

WHERE QUETTA CAN WIN THE FINAL

While Peshawar have an impressive pace arsenal at their disposal, Quetta have the batting firepower to take on any bowling attack. Opener Shane Watson has been the star man for the Gladiators this season with the veteran Australian leading the run-scoring charts.

Watson has so far racked up 423 runs in 11 innings at an average of 47 and his ability to give the side an excellent start with the bat has shone through the campaign. The Australian has a habit of turning up on the big stage as evidenced by his century in the 2018 IPL final for Chennai Super Kings and he will be relishing the prospect of leading Quetta to a maiden PSL title.

Watson’s fellow Quetta opener Ahmed Shehzad is also having a terrific campaign after starting poorly with the right-hander notching up three half-centuries in his last four outings.

If the Quetta openers can withstand the might of Hasan Ali and Wahab, Peshawar will find it difficult to impose their dominance in the final.

TEAM NEWS

Quetta leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed had to be rushed to the hospital midway through the PSL Qualifier against Peshawar after suffering a nasty facial injury. Although the Australian will require surgery for the injury, he has made himself available to play the final.

Peshawar veteran Misbah-ul-Haq has been used very sparingly in the tournament with the former Pakistan skipper making only three appearances so far. He has registered unbeaten half-centuries in two of those clashes and is certain to take the field in the final given his experience of leading Islamabad United to two PSL titles previously.

LIKELY XIs

Quetta Gladiators: Shane Watson, Ahmed Shehzad, Ahsan Ali, Rilee Rossouw, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk and c), Dwayne Bravo, Mohammad Nawaz, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Hasnain, Fawad Ahmed.

Peshawar Zalmi: Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal (wk), Misbah-ul-Haq, Sohaib Maqsood, Liam Dawson, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy (c), Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Sameen Gul, Tymal Mills.

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PSL 2019: Peshawar Zalmi roar into final with 48-run win versus holders Islamabad United

David Cooper 15/03/2019
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(Twitter/@thePSLt20).

Peshawar Zalmi stormed into the 2019 Pakistan Super League’s final with a conclusive 48-run victory against defending champions Islamabad United at the National Stadium of Karachi on Friday.

Kamran Akmal and Imam-ul-Haq blasted Peshawar to 135-1 in Eliminator 2, before Kieron Pollard’s 37 runs off 21 balls and skipper Darren Sammy 15-ball 30 helped them close on a formidable 214/5 off their 20 overs. Only Cameron Delport showed any sign of sustained resistance from the holders, finishing with two wickets at the cost of 24 runs.

In response, Islamabad failed to fire and not one of their batsman reached a half century. At the halfway stage, they required a mammoth 125 runs after the likes of Delport and Eliminator 1-hero Alex Hales got out cheaply.

It was then left for Pollard to bowl a sedate final over of an innings in which Islamabad could only reach a disappointing 166/9. Peshawar will now take on Quetta Gladiators in Sunday’s decider.

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