Ahsan Ali 73, Will Smeed 97 in vain for Quetta Gladiators
Peshawar Zalmi 191 for 5 (Talat 52, Malik 48*, Nawaz 3-44) beat Quetta Gladiators 190 for 4 (Smeed 97, Ahsan 73, Qadir 2-20) by five wickets
Quetta Gladiators opened sensationally, while Peshawar Zalmi kept the fireworks going right through the chase. In a match that didn’t dignify either bowling attack or fielding performance much, a straight power-hitting shootout between the two sides ended with Zalmi hunting down 191 with two deliveries and five wickets to spare.
Ahsan, at the other end, was not to be outdone. He came into this tournament in fine domestic form and launched an assault that matched Smeed’s destructiveness. The 28-year-old excited Gladiators and Pakistan fans alike, scoring a blistering 46-ball 73. It was perhaps telling that when he finally holed out (a shade contentiously; Rutherford’s body language suggested he had touched the rope with his foot) Gladiators’ momentum stalled, and what should have been a score in excess of 200 ended up at 190.
But Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men appeared to lack sufficient intensity at the start of the second innings, perhaps cocooned in a false sense of security surrounding the size of the target. A lusty little cameo by Yasir Khan brought him 30 off 12 balls and got Zalmi ahead of the asking rate early. Mohammad Nawaz pulled things back, and seemed to put his side back in control once that opening partnership was broken, striking three times in his first three overs.
But Zalmi continued their onslaught, thanks to a knock of relentless belligerence from Talat, aided by some bowling decisions that seemed to fly in the face of analytical match-ups. The decision to bowl out Nawaz’s final over with a warmed-up left-handed Talat on strike seemed an odd one, and was duly punished with 17 in the 12th over to bring the asking rate back down under 10.
After Naseem Shah bowled a splendid 18th over to turn the equation into 26 needed off two overs, Malik lay in wait against the medium pace Faulkner, timing his assault to perfection against the Australian. It left Naseem with just three to defend off the final over in which Zalmi completed a remarkable heist.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000