A year after they finished second in the inaugural edition, Quetta Gladiators once again found themselves on the wrong side of the result in the Pakistan Super League final. This time, it was Peshawar Zalmi who trumped them at the final hurdle, by 58 runs to lift the title.
On a pitch where run-scoring was hard work, Quetta needed their batsmen to be thrifty. Instead, one after the other they perished to extravagant shots. Mohammad Asghar, whose flat non-turners fetched him 3 for 16, benefitted in no small measure from the batsmen's profligacy, which gave him two of those wickets. That's not to say Peshawar's bowlers did not earn their wickets. Hasan Ali was skiddy and found bounce and seam movement off the pitch. Mohammad Hafeez's variations in trajectory and pace got him a wicket in his first over, against an anxious Sarfraz. By the eighth over, half of Quetta's line-up had been sent packing. The rest of the innings followed the same template, and so swift was the slide that portions of the cricket-starved Lahore crowd had already made their way out by the time the end came about.
Peshawar's start made for a stark contrast as they raced away to 41 in four overs. It was only once the spinners were brought in that Quetta were able to apply the brakes. As the new ball began wearing down, variable bounce came into play and it began stopping on the batsmen. Quetta's spinners were also able to make use of the dryness and cracks on the surface to suffocate them with regular wickets. Quetta really seized the advantage with Rayad Emrit's double-strike in the 17th over, so much so that Sarfraz Ahmed could afford a slip in the 18th over of the innings. But Darren Sammy flexed his muscles as Peshawar clubbed 33 runs in the final two overs.
Where the match was won
Rayad Emrit, who arrived in Lahore on the morning of the final, sent down a superb three overs - jet lag and all - and had 3 for 13. The start had been exactly as he would have hoped. The finish - far from it. Emrit undid some of the good work in his final over - the 19th of the innings - and was taken apart for 18 runs. He got his lengths all wrong and Sammy's brute force was too much to handle. If the first boundary of the over had been a lucky one that came off the outside edge, the last had Sammy's signature all over it - a full-blooded bottom-handed thump that crashed into the sightscreen.
Sammy would club two more sixes off the final over, sent down by Anwar Ali. On a surface where it was proving hard to get on top of the bounce, Sammy picked Anwar's harmless lengths early and swatted them over long-on. If there was pack of pace, Sammy made up for it with brawn. The late fireworks meant Peshawar, ambling along at 115 for 6 after 18 overs, clubbed 33 runs off the final two.
The men that won it
The short ball proved to be the worst option for bowlers from both sides as batsmen were able to comfortably ride the bounce and whack it either side of the wicket. No one benefitted more from that, however, than Kamran Akmal. Quetta's bowlers, seemingly not learning from their mistakes, repeatedly dragged their length in the early going, and Akmal duly punished them, pulling with authority and piercing the off-side field with his cuts. Even after the opening burst had ended, Kamran was able to use the shot as an effective pressure-buster. Four of his boundaries came through the cut and it set the tone for what proved to be a match-winning total.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo