KARACHI   -   It proved third time lucky for Quetta Gladiators as the two-times runner-up crossed the last hurdle quite emphatically this time to lift the coveted Pakistan Super League fourth edition trophy on Sunday.

The beaming faces and cheery shouts electrifying the National Stadium showed it was actually a victory of the whole cricket-crazy nation, which faced a sport-drought for several years because of the terrorism threats.

The successful conduct of the play-offs not only increased Pakistanis’ own confidence in country’s security apparatus but also sent a strong message abroad that time was ripe for return of the world cricket to this land.

Speedster Muhammad Hasnain and opener Ahmed Shahzad starred in Gladiators hammering of the Peshawar Zalmi by eight wickets in front of a capacity crowd including top-most dignitaries of the country. Hasnain was also named man of the final.

Shane Watson was named player of the tournament as well as batsman of the tournament while Hassan Ali received the best bowler trophy. Umer Khan of Karachi Kings named emerging player of the year. Spirit of the cricket award went to Islamabad United which dedicated the prize to their batsman Asif Ali.

President Dr Arif Alvi, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and CM Murad Ali Shah, CM Balochistan Jam Kamal, star all-rounder Boom Boom Shaid Khan Afridi and other dignitaries were present in the stadium to mark the moment.

The stadium filed with slogans of Pakistan Army Zindabad and Pakistan Zindabad as soon as the spectators saw Gen Bajwa. The army chief responded by waving hands to the crowd. The COAS was later seen in a jovial mode, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere and cheering the teams. A big smile on his contended face showed the satisfaction of a victor.

Indeed, it is due to the matchless and countless sacrifices of our  security agencies that festivity is returning to the country after more than a decade of dread and terror.

Singer Salman Ahmed played the national anthem as entire crowd and dignitaries stood up to pay respect and white pigeons were released as mark of peace and harmony.

The final, which was promised to be a stunner like previous encounters between the two teams, proved a sort of anti-climax and Zalmi were the main culprits for succumbing to their rivals so easily.

Zalmi have all ingredients in their favour and everything they hoped for to help them achieving the title but they could not capitalise and only are themselves to blame.

They wanted to bat first and despite losing the toss they got their wish fulfilled by Gladiator’s captain Sarfaraz Ahmed after winning the toss.

They wanted to get Shane Watson out at the earliest and Umer Amin’s acrobatic effort in the field gave them the prized wicket early. And don’t forget a lot of misfielding and dropped catches by Galdiators players.

But despite getting favour from the fate they wished for but they could put only an ordinary effort both with ball and bat that cost them the final.

Zalmi hit only 13 fours and three maximums, which sums up their night. The 18-year-old express fast bowler Hassnain was the star, as Gladiators restricted Peshawar Zalmi to a modest total.

Hassnain’s pace was too hot to handle for Zalmi batsmen as the youngster took the prized wickets of Kieron Pollard and Imam-ul-Haq who could only score seven runs and finished with 3 for 30 in his four overs.

Sammy’s decision of holding Pollard back was arguably the turning point as Zalmi batsmen failed to provide solid starts and kept on gifting wickets. Game could have done and dusted for Zalmi had butter fingered Umar Akmal hold on to a dolly catch offered by Sammy off Sohail Tanvir’s bowling.

It was an off day for both Akmal brothers as Umar proved the weakest link in Gladiators armoury and kept on leaking lot runs.

On the other hand senior Akmal, Kamran, got off to a flying start but could not kept his cool and lost his wicket to M Nawaz unnecessarily that really doomed the Zalmi.

Imam-ul-Haq in the very second over tried to hit fast bowling sensation Hasnain out of the park and he was easily caught by Shahzad at long on.

As Sarfraz introduced left arm spinner Nawaz, he was welcomed by Kamran with a massive first ball six and very next ball for a boundary to put Nawaz and Gladiators under pressure. Kamran was looking very dangerous and hit another boundary on the 5th ball of Nawaz.

But trying to hit last ball out of park, Kamran’s middle stump was uprooted and Zalmi were reduced from very comfortable 31 for 1 in 3.5 overs to 31 for 2 by the end of 4th over.

Sarfraz used his bowling options quite smartly. Fawad Ahmad was introduced in the 6th over and on his very first delivery, Sohaib Maqsood tried to hit a big six but Shahzad made mess of a very simple catch.

Zalmi could only score 41 in six overs and were 52 for the loss of 2 wickets in 8 overs. Fawad and Nawaz were bowling superbly, restricting the batsmen.

Surprisingly, it were Zalmi who were enjoying majority of crowd support as it was 70-30 in favour of Zalmi. Darren Bravo was fortunate to have Maqsood’s wicket on a full toss, which was easily caught at long on by Rilley Rossouw.

Sammy very strangely sent Nabi ahead of Pollard and himself despite the fact Zalmi was scoring runs at very slow pace and consuming precious deliveries. Nabi also consumed precious deliveries and was finding it very hard to even score singles.

Sarfaraz brought back Hasnain in the 14th over and the youngster took the prized wicket of Umar Amin, who tried to hit the ball over deep square leg but it landed into the safe hands of Sohail Tanvir.

Chasing target of 139 runs, Gladiators lost Watson early through a direct hit from Amin. The things could have been interested but Shahzad along with Ahsan Ali played with authority and scored runs at brisk pace.

Ahsan was the only other wicket that fell on the night on a Wahab Riaz delivery. After AHsan’s departure Shahzad and Rossouw took their team home and title safely. Shahzad made unbeaten 58 with the help of 6 boundaries and 1 six while Rossouw made unbeaten 38 hitting five fours.

 

NEXT YEAR PSL MATCHES ALSO TO BE HELD IN MIRANSHAH: DG ISPR

 

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said on Sunday that future Pakistan Super League matches would be held in Miranshah.

DG ISPR was speaking to media at the National Stadium, where he was present along with the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa to watch the Pakistan Super League final.

He said that it was heartening to see that sports activities were returning to the country, adding that the matches would also be held in Miranshah, Muzaffarabad and Khyber. He said

“The Prime Minister have already said that the next PSL will be held fully in Pakistan and I have talked to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani, who was also determined about the idea.”

He said it was the result of the sacrifices from all the security forces and Pakistani people that peace was returning to the country.

He said nobody would be allowed to create hurdles in restoring the peace fully in the country. “The way our security forces have worked, it should not be reversed and we would not allow anybody to reverse it,” he said.