LAHORE: Defending champions Peshawar won their third match on the bounce at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, beating last two years’ finalists Quetta Gladiators by one run in a thrilling playoff to set up the second eliminator against Karachi Kings on Wednesday.
Needing 25 off the last over, Anwar Ali nearly stole it for the Gladiators at the end as he hit Liam Dawson for three sixes and boundary off the first five balls, leaving three to win off the final delivery. Despite Anwar Ali being dropped by Umaid Asif at long-on on the final, Mir Hamza was run out while attempting the second run, ensuring that Zalmi edge out another Peshawar-Quetta humdinger.
Gladiators that were dented once again by the large chunk of their foreign contingent opting out of touring Pakistan, were visibly weak in the batting department in the game, despite having had their moments throughout the playoffs.
After rain had threatened to pour water on the first eliminator, in the middle of the first over, Zalmi, being put into bat, lost two back to back wickets leaving them at 10-2 after 2.2 overs. The first of those was the mammoth wicket of Kamran Akmal, who scored this season’s first century against Lahore Qalandars in Zalmi’s final group game to help them qualify for Tuesday’s playoff.
While Tamim Iqbal (27 off 29) and Mohammad Hafeez (25 off 14) did the rebuilding work, it was whose 62 off 25 was the cornerstone of the Zalmi innings, taking them closer to the 160 mark, which at multiple times during the innings looked implausible.
It was a 21-run Dawson vs Thisara Perera 17th over that helped Zalmi post the eventual 157, as the Englishman hammered two boundaries and two sixes to provide much needed momentum to Zalmi’s finish.
Even so, Perera did redeem himself by bowling a tight final over where he conceded only three runs and grabbed two late wickets. The Sri Lankan all-rounder had been in the game throughout, having earlier taken two contenders for the catch of the tournament to dismiss Andre Fletcher and Saad Wasim. Perera, however, could not deliver the goods with the bat later on.
Chasing 158 Quetta mirrored Peshawar’s start losing two early wickets that left then 17-2 after 2.1 overs, with both openers Asad Shafiq and Tom Kohler-Cadmore back in the pavilion – Hasan Ali dismissing both. For the Gladiators it was Mohammad Nawaz and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed that did the rebuilding work, taking them to 80 for 2 in the 10th over, firmly putting last year’s runners-up in the driver’s seat.
Sameen Gul dismissed both in back to back deliveries to bring the match back on to the proverbial knife’s edge. After Mahmudullah and Rilee Rossouw looked to rebuild again, it was Umaid Asif’s turn to take back to back wickets, leaving Gladiators at 117-6 after 15.4 overs, making Zalmi the favourites again.
While Zalmi dominating the 17th over of their innings proved to be the differential, it was the 18th over while defending that eventually proved to be the clincher, with Hasan Ali conceding only two runs with 30 off 18 balls being reduced to 28 off 12.
It was then Wahab Riaz’s turn to take a brace as he dismissed Perera and Hassan Khan in the penultimate over to almost seal the match.
Sammy then had to bowl Dawson in the final over at the end of the game, where Anwar Ali nearly took it away from Zalmi.
Having faced three virtual knockout matches and prevailing in all three Zalmi would now believe they are the favourites for the second Eliminator on Wednesday, with a trio of successive wins.
Karachi Kings, having started the competition as the form team, have gone off the boil of late. But the Kings would have the incentive of eying a spot in the final that would be played on their home turf on Sunday.