PSL is great fun. If you don’t agree, you are ignorant. If you are not following it, you are missing out. It is a pretty condescending statement to begin this article but it is what it is.
Things happen in PSL. Over the last 12 matches, seven wickets have fallen in the first over of the match. Yet, the average first innings total has been 190. The 200-run mark has been breached four times. Wickets have been hard and true. Pacers have flourished with the new ball and so have the big hitters. PSL has been a perfect conflation of how T20 cricket is meant to be played and the Pakistan cricket culture.
However, there hasn’t been much difference in the points table as compared to last week. Lahore Qalandars, Multan Sultans, and Islamabad United continue to occupy the top three spots whereas Quetta Gladiators are still at last. Meanwhile, Peshawar Zalmi and Karachi Kings have been hit-and-miss, swapping places in the middle of the table. But let’s focus on the exciting happening over the last 12 matches of the season.
Rizwan’s hundred & a thriller
What better way to start than Mohammad Rizwan’s brilliance with the bat. He struck an unbeaten 110 against Karachi. It was a typical Rizwan innings. He was 51 off 43 balls at one point, making everyone wonder why he is still knocking the ball around with nine wickets in hand and nine overs left in the innings. A few overs later, he was 63 off 48. Then followed the carnage in the last five overs.
Rizwan rocketed to a 60-ball hundred with a flurry of boundaries all around the park. It was a display of exquisite batting.
Karachi put up a spirited fight in response to Multan’s 196/2 but in another unfortunate result, they fell short by only three runs. They needed 22 off the final over and pulled down the equation to seven off four balls and went down by a close margin.
Onto some ferocious innings that just fell short of the 100-run mark. Azam Khan plundered 97 off only 42 balls in Match 13 against Quetta. He struck nine fours and eight sixes. A wide full-length delivery picked up over the square-leg region for six took the cake.
Azam loves batting against his father’s team (Quetta is coached by Azam’s father Moin Khan). In four innings versus Quetta, Azam averages 49.25 at a strike-rate of 191.3. He was out on the last ball of the innings but had elevated Islamabad to a total of 220.
Zaman’s knock lifted Lahore to 241/6. Peshawar scored 201/9 in response. There were 28 sixes in total in that game.
Anything can happen in T20 cricket but Lahore’s miraculous comeback against Quetta in Match 18 took this adage to a new extreme. Batting first, Lahore were 50/7 at one stage. They were dead and buried when Sikandar Raza and Rashid Khan resurrected them with a quickfire stand (69 off 39 balls). Yet, you would think that 148 isn’t enough in such a high-scoring tournament. Especially when Quetta were 52/0 in response in only five overs.
At this point, Criclytics rated Quetta’s win percentage at 85. You can’t go wrong from there. Except it has been that kind of a season for Sarfraz Ahmed’s team. They slide from 52/0 to 80/5 over the next 49 deliveries. Eventually, they lost by 17 runs in what was an astonishing comeback from Lahore.
Rashid picked 2/14 in his four overs along with the relentless Haris Rauf grabbing 3/22. Raza was the player-of-the-match for his unbeaten 71 off 34 balls.
Another Guptill special
Quetta have won only two games and both courtesy of a Martin Guptill special. In Match 6, he struck 117 in a team total of 168. In Match 22, Guptill batted through while Quetta stumbled in their chase of 165.
At 63/5 in 9.5 overs, no one gave them a chance. Guptill then accelerated from 41 off 40 balls to 86 not out from 56 in a blitzkrieg. In a 95-run sixth wicket partnership with Sarfaraz, he contributed 64 runs. Dwaine Pretorius hit the winning stroke in the last over.
Considering Guptill arrived at PSL out of touch, he has proved to be an excellent signing. Without him, Quetta could have been winless right now.
Best vs Best
Babar Azam has had mixed fortunes in the last three games. He scored an unbeaten 75 against Islamabad which went in vain. Since then, he has been dismissed for scores of 7 and 0. Against Lahore, where the average run-rate of the game was 11.05, Babar was lined up against Shaheen Shah Afridi. It is one of those local battles that draw eyeballs towards PSL. And Shaheen won this round hands down. Right after conceding a boundary, he nailed the perfect delivery to the right-hander. The line, the length, the movement, everything hit the Bull’s eye as Shaheen rattled Babar’s stumps.
In Peshawar’s next match, against Karachi, Babar was up against a rampaging Mohammad Amir, another ace left-arm seamer. Amir struck twice in the opening over itself, including dismissing both openers for a duck. It was another in-swinger at a sharp angle that led to an early exit for the skipper.
Nothing against Babar here. But he has lost two high-profile individual battles. However, the poster boy of Pakistan cricket, you back him to make a strong comeback.
Cover Image Credits: Twitter/@thePSLT20
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