KARACHI: The city of Multan hosted its first ever PSL match on Wednesday, and the home fans were treated to an absolute thrashing as the Sultans crushed Peshawar Zalmi by six wickets, with a quarter of their innings still to go.
A capacity crowd had reason to shout right from the start, as Peshawar’s opener Tom Banton was dropped off the very first ball — a tough chance at slip. But as Multan’s captain Shan Masood later noted, it was enough to signal their intent. Mohammad Irfan, the player bowling, had his revenge as the same player was dismissed in the same over thanks to a sharp catch by Shahid Afridi. That set the tone for the rest of the evening, as Zalmi kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Perhaps the most crucial of these losses was that of star opener Kamran Akmal. Zalmi have often lost their way at the start but have regularly had Akmal bail them out. His dismissal was the first notice that tonight was not going to be the Peshawar team’s night.
For a brief interval though, all those thoughts were put on hold as all of Pakistan swooned collectively over the batting of Haider Ali. The Zalmi youngster showed an impeccable touch, taking full advantage of a track that was far better to bat on than the score suggested. Not only did Haider have the ability to have the purists purring with the beauty of his shots, but he also possessed the ability to go big, effortlessly scoring boundaries when needed. In the commentary box, southern Punjab native Waqar Younis had barely concealed his bias for the Multan side, but even he was left raving as Haider’s batting carried the Zalmi innings. But just when it looked like he was going onto something huge, he holed out to Rile Rossouw in the deep.
His loss exposed Peshawar’s all-rounders, who had to bat much earlier than expected. It meant that Zalmi’s talismanic skipper Daren Sammy was forced to bat against the spin, and in a torturous display he went eleven balls without scoring a single run, or even really attempting to do so. But when the pacers returned, Sammy immediately got out and with that ended any hopes Zalmi had of posting a total that at least flirted with competitiveness. The 123 that they ended up with also came before the team had faced its full quota of 20 overs.
But such disappointment was banished at the start, as Peshawar Zalmi replicated the Sultans’ first over with the ball. James Vince was dropped at slip off the very first ball, but then holed out within the circle to be dismissed in the same Hasan Ali over. Moeen Ali followed him back to the hut soon after, hitting one straight to the fielder off Rahat. With the team sniffing the kill, Sammy brought in his third senior Pakistani pacer and leader of the pack Wahab Riaz, and he responded by getting rid off Shan Masood. Newcomer Zeeshan Ashraf showed sparkling touch in his brief innings, but a wonderful diving catch off Wahab’s bowling meant that he was the fourth wicket to go, and the match suddenly felt wide open.
Unfortunately for Peshawar, that was as good as it got. Rilee Rossouw shrugged off the disappointment of his PSL so far and looked in control as he got the runs flowing. The paucity of the target meant that he never really had to worry about the asking rate as much as he needed to stabilize the innings, which is exactly what he did. An edged hit to his body left him struggling briefly in the middle, but by then Khushdil Shah, the young batter had spent enough time to take control. He smashed down the remaining target to give the win the emphasis it needed.
Although this was their second loss, this might be the first one to actually worry Zalmi. Their batting looked lost when Akmal fell cheaply, with Shoaib Malik’s woes in the middle order continuing. Tom Banton, their much hyped opener, has also struggled to make his mark on the league while Sammy’s utter cluelessness against spin made his team look far more exposed than it had been so far. But they would know that their ceiling is much higher than those of their opponents, and tonight’s loss was a lot less about their overall strengths and a lot more about failing to apply them.