The latest edition of the Pakistan Super League got over on Sunday (March 5) with Peshawar Zalmi beating Quetta Gladiators by 58 runs in the final, played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore amid much security as well as fanfare.
Here, we take a look at the five teams that took part in the tournament, their performers and their performances.
Peshawar Zalmi were the pre-tournament favourites and it was fitting that they won the title. They had more fans in the stands around the UAE than any other team, with Shahid Afridi, Darren Sammy and Kamran Akmal drawing people in – their matches usually had full houses as expatriate Pathans in UAE joined in the fun. Even the Gaddafi stands were dominated by their fans during the final. They did more off-field crowd-engagement activity than any other franchise as well, and that helped.
Kamran, the Pakistan discard, headlined the team’s batting charts, ending as the league’s top run-getter with 353 runs, while Dawid Malan, the English allrounder, did his bit with the bat along with Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Sammy. Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali and Chris Jordan led the pace attack ably, while Mohammad Asghar, the 18-year-old left-arm spinner, was outstanding whenever got a chance, especially in the final where he returned 3 for 16 in four overs to stop Quetta at 90.
Quetta impressed everyone with their spirit and never-say-die approach. They were superb in the league phase when they won four of their eight games to become the first team to qualify for the playoffs. And there, they pulled off a sensational one-run win over Peshawar, with Mohammad Nawaz, the left-arm spinner, defending a seven-run target in the last over.
Quetta were clearly inferior to Peshawar in the final, and much of it had to do with most of their top overseas players refusing to travel to Lahore. Rilee Rossouw and Kevin Pietersen had anchored Quetta’s batting with 259 and 241 runs respectively, and their refusal to play the final certainly depleted the batting. Tymal Mills’s absence from the bowling was also crucial, as Quetta lost a second PSL final in succession.
Quetta’s team management had strong characters like Viv Richards playing the role of mentor and Moin Khan in the mix as coach, and Sarfraz Ahmed led the team admirably till it all fell apart in the title clash.
Karachi were as patchy as they were in the first edition. On paper, they had a very strong team with locals like Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali, plus Kumar Sangakkara, the captain, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Bopara and Mahela Jayawardene among overseas players.
But potential didn’t quite translate into performance for the longest time. Karachi lost their first three matches and were left in a spot until they beat Islamabad United and Peshawar to herald their arrival. Then they had a 3-4 record and had to beat Islamabad United in their last league game, which they did, and seemed to be peaking at the right time when they ousted Islamabad, the defending champions, in the playoffs before going down to the eventual champions in the eliminator.
Gayle was a major disappointment. Karachi had pinned their hopes on him to fire but the dashing left-hander managed just 59 runs in the first six games before being dropped for one match. He returned to score 44, 17 and 40 but that was hardly what one would expect from him. Pollard was also disappointing and only managed to spark in one match when he smashed two sixes off the last two balls to anchor the win over Lahore.
Sohail finished as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 16 strikes, while Amir (10), Usama Mir (10) and Wasim (8) also fetched wickets when needed, but it didn’t quite add up in the end.
Islamabad’s title defence was jolted as early as on the second day when two of their top players, Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif, were provisionally suspended in a spot-fixing case. Mohammad Irfan also came under suspicion and that hurt Islamabad’s chances in a big way.
Once again, they had a mixture of seasoned and experienced players like Misbah-ul-Haq, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin along with some talented youngsters like Shadab Khan, Ammad Butt and Hussain Talat. They pulled off a sensational one-run win over Quetta and were top of the table until a late slump, losing to Karachi twice to end their campaign on a disappointing note.
Dwayne Smith led the batting in his usual aggressive style but Misbah, Haddin and Watson failed to keep the tempo up for long enough. Among the bowlers, Rumman Raees and Mohammad Sami led the pace attack with 12 wickets apiece, while Shadab impressed with his legspin and excellent fielding.
Lahore were again the top of the flops. Just like last year, they were the first team to go out of the competition after managing just six points from their eight games. They blew hot and cold, scoring 200 in one game and losing, and then getting bowled out for 59 in the next – that summed up their performance.
It seemed that Paddy Upton, the chief coach, and Aqib Javed, the team director, were unable to gel or bring out the best from a good bunch of players. Brendon McCullum did lead the side well but could not inspire with good scores himself. Once Jason Roy left to join the England team in the Caribbean, Lahore’s batting fell apart. Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah did well in patches with the ball, and so did Umar Akmal with the bat.
The most noticeable aspect of the Lahore team was Rana Fawad, their owner with the handsome moustache, who cut a lively figure around the venues in the UAE. That certainly made him popular, but didn’t help his team much.