PSL Finale: Can Islamabad Stop The Quetta Juggernaut?
KARACHI: It’s a dream finale. Tonight’s HBL Pakistan Super League title clash featuring Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United is a battle between two teams who are on a roll.
True that the Gladiators floored United in their previous two meetings in the Twenty20 league but with four consecutive wins, what we see in the final is a very different United.
And this time it would take Sarfraz and Co something extra-ordinary to tame Misbah and his rampaging men.
Quetta skipper Sarfraz Ahmed believes that his players will go all the way.
“It is a very big opportunity for Quetta and the population of Quetta and for its cricket if we are to win. Whether we bat first or bowl doesn’t really matter. The key to us performing is our team bonding which has been very good throughout the tournament,” Sarfraz said ahead of the final.
Both teams took a different route to the final: Gladiators did not break too much sweat during the league phase losing just two matches and became the first team to make the final. United took the more arduous route as they lost four matches in the group phase, but then bounced back with four consecutive wins.
In their previous encounters, Gladiators successfully chased down the targets: they won the tournament opener with a whopping four overs to spare and a week later they won with 23 balls still in the bag.
However, both teams are back on the starting blocks for the final. Gladiators were lucky to scamper into the final after their one-run win over initial and fans’ favourites Peshawar Zalmi in the 1st Qualifying final. It once again exposed Quetta’s reliance on their foreign imports Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara. Of the two times they batted first, they collapsed the first time and then put up a sub-par total in the second attempt. Shehzad and Sarfraz will need to play responsibly if Quetta need to negate the in-form Islamabad bowling line-up.
For Islamabad, too, the runs have come mainly from the top order comprising Sharjeel, Dwayne Smith, Brad Haddin and, before he was forced out due to injury, Shane Watson. Although they have started well in the first 10 overs, Islamabad have shown the habit of not accelerating as much towards the end. Islamabad’s run rate in the first 10 overs is 7.09 which is second only to Quetta. That rate climbs to just 7.83 in the final 10. The team has also had to deal with veterans Misbah, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Sami along with Andre Russell and Mohammad Irfan sitting out due to injuries.
Islamabad have two injury concerns: fast bowler Rumman Raees has a hamstring issue while Saeed Ajmal, who has sat out the previous two matches, is recovering from a minor foot injury. Ajmal was hit on the right foot while he was bowling on the eve of the play-off encounter during Islamabad’s training and since then has been nursing a mild stiffness. But it is understood that he can play if the team management prefers him over Mohammad Irfan.
Luke Wright, who was forced to sit out in the previous two matches for Quetta due to some stiffness, is back in contention and likely to return as an opener. Fast bowler Aizaz Cheema, after his last-over heroics in the play-off, is likely to keep senior fast bowler Umar Gul out.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) asked fans without tickets to stay away from the Dubai International Stadium as the final is sold-out.
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