SHARJAH: Unbeaten Quetta Gladiators will aim to keep an unblemished record when they meet Multan Sultans as the HBL Pakistan Super League action shifts to Sharjah from Wednesday.
The Sarfraz Ahmed-led Gladiators — twice runners-up in three PSL editions — are looking in no mood to relent as they target the elusive title with their never-say-die approach, under the astute coaching of former Pakistan captain Moin Khan.
It is remarkable how Moin has transformed a squad what does not have any iconic names but play with a winning spirit and determination as did professionally in Dubai. The Gladiators will definitely not let Sultans dominate them at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Gladiators thumped arch-rivals Peshawar Zalmi in their first match of PSL 4, keeping them to 155-4, courtesy some tight bowling led by left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who finished with 2-25 in his four overs. Umar Akmal determined to regain his place in the national team, then batted in a punishing style as he took Gladiators over the line with an eye-catching 50-ball 75 not out.
Gladiators just steamrolled holders Islamabad United in a convincing seven-wicket wickets. This time left-arm paceman Sohail Tanvir rocked United with the prized wicket of Luke Ronchi off the very first ball of the match before finishing with 4-21. Pakistan origin Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed chipped in with 3-15.
Although United managed to reach 157-8, it didn’t prove much for Gladiators who rode on Shane Watson’s 55-ball 81 not out and another knock from Umar (28-ball 44) to seal victory with 10 deliveries to spare.
Sultans had mixed fortunes in the first two games they have played to date, losing to Karachi Kings before staging recovery to defeat United.
Sultans did give Kings a scare before going down by seven runs in a match highlighted by a new record PSL partnership between Liam Livingstone (82) and Babar Azam (77).
Sultans fought hard in the chase of 184 with skipper Shoaib Malik (28-ball 52) and Laurie Evans (39-ball 49), but in the end a last over target of 16 proved beyond their reach.
And then against United, Sultans showed their bowling prowess to restrict the two-time champions to 125-7. Malik then anchored the chase with a solid 29-ball 31, but it was Shahid Afridi who sealed the win with two sixes.
Zalmi, meanwhile, will be hoping to maintain the momentum they emphatically regained on Sunday when Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz shared seven wickets to send Lahore Qalandars crashing to 78 all out before Umar Amin banged a 39-ball 61 to seal a crushing seven-wicket win.
Zalmi’s opponents on Thursday night are Karachi Kings, the franchise who are coached by Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur. The Kings are keen to bounce back from the 22-run loss against old foes Qalandars, who upfront totalled pnly 138-6.
The main worry for the Kings is their lack of power-hitters after the early dismissal of Liam Livingstone. Against Qalandars they fell behind an otherwise moderate asking-rate mainly because of Mohammad Rizwan getting bogged down when boundaries were required.
The heartening aspect of the Kings side is the form of their teenaged spinner Umar Khan, who had the honour of outfoxing the great A.B. de Villiers during a memorable spell of left-arm spin. On the traditionally slower pitches of Sharjah, Umar could the talisman for Arthur’s charges.
With eight fixtures scheduled here, the six-team standings could dramatically alter before the tournament returns to Dubai next week. At this point in time, both United and Qalandars are under pressure after both sides lost two of three matches each team played during the first leg in Dubai.
Sharjah leg fixtures (all times PST)
Feb 20: Multan Sultans vs Quetta Gladiators (9:00pm).
Feb 21: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi (9:00pm).
Feb 22: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans (4:30pm).
Feb 22: Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi (9:00pm).
Feb 23: Lahore Qalandars vs Quetta Gladiators (4:30pm).
Feb 23: Islamabad United vs Karachi Kings (9:00pm).
Feb 24: Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans (4:30pm).
Feb 24: Quetta Gladiators vs Karachi Kings (9:00pm).
(Tabulated under played, won, lost, points, net run-rate):
Quetta Gladiators 2 2 0 4 +0.674
Peshawar Zalmi 2 1 1 2 +1.798
Multan Sultans 2 1 1 2 +0.110
Islamabad United 3 1 2 2 -0.299
Karachi Kings 2 1 1 2 -0.375
Lahore Qalandars 3 1 2 2 -1.106
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019