Peshawar Zalmi crowned 2017 PSL champions on a night to remember for Pakistan cricket fans
The organisers of the HBL Pakistan Super League have tested to the limit the adage that it will be all right on the night.
But, after everything, it just about was. The show had to go on, and it did. Peshawar Zalmi became the second PSL champions, after beating Quetta Gladiators by 58 runs.
More to the point, they did it in Pakistan, at a Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore that was packed full of fans thrilled to have big match cricket back.
After the PSL’s stubborn refusal to countenance the idea that Dubai might be the more sensible option for the final, everything did seem just about fine on the night.
And how much better will Pakistan cricket be for that? That remains to be seen. It was a big risk taking this match home. For what reward remains unclear.
The operation to stage this fixture in Lahore was massive. Reportedly, it involved 10,000 security staff, no vehicles within a two kilometre perimeter, HD facial recognition CCTV, and a makeshift hospital in the adjacent hockey stadium. International teams will not be persuaded to return based solely on this one sample of evidence.
That was the intention of taking this match home. But maybe it is churlish to think about that now. Just having this one match was enough to celebrate.
For one night only, a substantial event was staged in front of arguably its most appreciative public anywhere in the world of mainstream cricket.
It was not without its faults. The match itself was completely lopsided, mainly because one team were all in it together, a well-oiled machine playing their 11th match in a month as a side.
The other, by contrast, had a motley crew of less luminous overseas “stars”, newly arrived at short notice from various points of the globe.
All of Quetta’s overseas players were changed. Home went Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Tymal Mills and Rilee Rossouw. In came the less celebrated figures of Morne van Wyk, Sean Ervine, Anamul Haque and Rayad Emrit. With the best will in the world, the transition was awkward.
These teams were split by only two wickets, and then one run, in the two matches they played against each other in the UAE earlier in the week. The final, though, was basically a no-contest. Supporters expecting a fair fight were short-changed.
Beyond the boundary, the host broadcasters changed between the UAE and Pakistan. Sunset and Vine stayed on in Dubai, unwilling to put their production team at any potential risk, replaced by Innovation Group.
There was a live feed, though. You could barely tell the difference, either, other than the fact Mel Jones, Danny Morrison, Ian Bishop and Alan Wilkins were now absent from the commentary box.
Dean Jones, who started the tournament as Islamabad United coach and finished it as the senior overseas commentator, filled the Morrison role. A particular highlight was when the Australian referred to Anwar Ali’s death bowling being as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.
There were other slight differences to what had gone before, too. When Mohammed Nawaz was leading the fightback for the Quetta bowlers after Peshawar’s early assault with the bat, he thought he had an LBW. Upon being rebuffed, the left-arm spinner immediately asked for a review.
No such luck. The 20 league matches did not have the Decision Review System. After some indifferent officiating, DRS was implemented for the three playoff matches.
Then, when the Hawk-Eye operators pulled out of travelling for the final, the technology was no longer in place for the reviews.
There were other glitches, too. The disco lights lining the fences, which illuminate in different colours depending on which team is succeeding at that moment, went on the blink early in the Peshawar innings. But that happened in Sharjah, too.
Peshawar, it is fair to say, were deserving champions. They have topped the table in each of the PSL’s first two seasons. They have won more matches than anyone else.
They should have beaten Quetta twice, too, had they not fluffed their lines in Sharjah on Tuesday, when they failed to get over the line with two runs left and three balls remaining.
Whether this match does the trick of securing Pakistan cricket’s future at home or not, there were plenty of shoots of optimism by way of the key performers in the final.
Peshawar’s match-winners with the ball were their two emerging player picks. Mohammed Asghar, 18, took three for 16, while Hasan Ali, 23, claimed the seminal wicket of Ahmed Shahzad.
So the future for Pakistan cricket is bright, even if it does have to be enjoyed in exile for some time yet.
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Updated: July 21, 2017 06:45 PM