The United Arab Emirates phase of the tournament is over, and here we are it’s the time for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final to be held in Lahore.
The contest is going to be an epic encounter; however, Quetta Gladiators’ fans will feel that not having the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Rilee Roussow, Luke Wright, and Tymal Mills will be a hammer blow to a team that is built as a unit, not on one or two central individuals. They have completely revamped the team and they might not even get a lot of time to practice with them before the big game Sunday. On the other hand, the captain Sarfraz Ahmad was confident that this time they would definitely win the game to lift the PSL trophy.
The final will be a contest between the never-say-die spirit of Gladiators against the valour of Peshawar Zalmi, with a full house at the Gaddafi Stadium; millions in the country and abroad would be hoping the event happens safely.
Trophies are not given on popularity alone, but if that were to be the case, Peshawar would have walked away with the silverware as the Pashtun expats—who are primarily engaged in manual labour in the UAE—thronged the stadiums in Sharjah and Dubai whenever their team was in action.
But on the big day, they will miss their star player Shahid Afridi, who injured his right hand in the playoff against Karachi Kings on Friday. Afridi has been advised a ten-day rest and was ruled out of the final.
Quetta edged out Peshawar in last year’s playoff by a single run, and, amazingly, repeated the same nail-biting finish by the same margin this year. In head-to-head clashes, Quetta lead by three matches to two with one match rained off.
Moin Khan, the coach, admitted it would be tough without their key players but hoped the replacement players would fill the gap.
“It’s tough to lose some key players,” said Moin. “All the players are professionals so I don’t see any problem but it will be important to gel in so that we can perform and win the trophy.”
Quetta’s replacements are all smaller in stature than the original players, but they will give the team much-needed back-up.
Peshawar, on the other hand, have said their four foreign players would be available for the final, giving them a big boost ahead of the final.
Peshawar will also have an edge in both batting and bowling as their opener Kamran Akmal (313 runs in ten games) is the top run-getter in the PSL, while Malan (158 runs) and Mohammad Hafeez (77 in the last league game) are in good nick.
They also have a strong pace attack with Wahab Riaz (13 wickets), Hasan Ali (10 wickets) and Chris Jordan (seven wickets) complementing each other. Mohammad Asghar and Hafeez will take care of the spin department.
Quetta will miss the fast bowler Mills, whose disguises in pace had been effective, particularly. They will hope his absence spurs their three spinners, Hassan Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, and Zulfiqar Babar, to greater feats.
Ahmed Shehzad, the opener, has anchored Quetta’s batting with 241 runs in nine matches while Sarfraz Ahmed will be integral as both batsman and captain as he has marshalled his troops admirably well.
Wahab has been playing the business end of the PSL right on the edge. That manifested itself in some tears when Zalmi finally secured their place in the final. His performances with the ball have been increasingly forceful. He will be bowling the death overs, which will likely pit him in direct conflict with Sarfraz, Pakistan’s limited-overs captain. The winner of that battle will likely take the trophy.
Kamran Akmal has enjoyed a splendid batting form in this series, notching 313 runs, including the only century in this year’s competition. However, he struggled in all three matches so far against Gladiators. And he has fallen to left-arm spin on each occasion. He is likely to be pitted against Zulfiqar at the start, and Quetta will want to get him out early and stamp their authority in the game.