The curtain is set to come down on PSL 2019 in Karachi on Sunday night – and two of the best teams in the tournament are vying to take centre stage.
Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators finished first and second respectively in the league standings, with the likes of Kamran Akmal, Hasan Ali and Shane Watson writing headlines over the course of the last month.
Quetta have one distinct advantage – they know what it takes to beat Zalmi, three times in fact, over the season to this point. Will they clinch another victory, or will the fourth time be the charm for Peshawar?
Catch our ball by ball updates below, with the action starting at 19:00 GST:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SHANE WATSON DESTROYS LIAM DAWSON @ShaneRWatson33 benefits 16 runs off 3 deliveries against @daws128 and Quetta Gladiators are 57/1 now— Cricingif (@_cricingif) March 13, 2019
Ball-by-ball scorecard 👉 https://t.co/hpkh4wGHHF #PZvQG #PSL2019 #KhelDeewanoKa #CricketForAll pic.twitter.com/Eyf9FmZLCp
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.
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.