Smith punches floor Quetta
When Dwayne Smith is in form, he hits the ball hard, a cracking sound as bat meets ball. It stings if you are the opposition. Today that slap, and the pain was felt by Quetta Gladiators. An unbearable pain it was, considering Smith bludgeoned Quetta in the inaugural PSL final.
Two evenings ago, it was Smith who played out an uninspiring knock of 19 from 37 balls, receiving criticism for negating the enterprising Sharjeel Khan, who eventually became PSL's first centurion to take Islamabad into the final.
In the final, Islamabad knew their target. They knew Quetta had struggled each of the three times they had batted first: they had lost the first two matches and in the third, they secured a win after Peshawar Zalmi's lower order lost their nerve in the first qualifying final. Smith showed his intent in the first over when he freed his arms against Quetta's strike bowler Anwar Ali, hitting successive fours. Then, he reverse paddled Nathan McCullum's first ball for another four before pulling over midwicket.
It hardly mattered who was bowling to Smith, with his sole intention to power the ball to or over the ropes. When Zulfiqar Babar bowled flat on off, Smith lofted him over deep midwicket to move into the 40s. He got to his second fifty in three matches with an easy lofted drive over cover for four off Grant Elliott's first over. When Aizaz Cheema, Quetta's match-winner in the first qualifying final, switched to yorkers, Smith read the plan and quickly moved inside the line of the ball to use his strong wrists to flick another easy boundary.
Smith was dropped twice, first on 38 by Anwar and then on 52 when left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz failed to hold on to a return catch. However, Smith was in no charitable mood. A full delivery outside off from Elliott was smacked over the midwicket boundary as the ball sailed high in to the upper tier in the stands. The boundaries were short and Smith did not waste any scoring opportunity.
Smith was assisted by former Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who scored his third fifty in the last four matches, and virtually matched the West Indies allrounder shot for shot. But Smith delivered the knockout punch early on, effectively killing Quetta's aspirations of winning the inaugural PSL.
Importantly, Smith did not throw away the start he had got. Quetta's senior pair of Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara had both apologised to their dressing room after committing the blunder of playing the wrong shot at the wrong time in the first qualifying final against Peshawar Zalmi. Smith, though, made sure he took Quetta to the doorstep of victory with Haddin finishing the job.
"I have the experience and I know my role and I back myself," Smith said while picking up the Man-of-the-Match award. Smith, who was part of the West Indies squad that won the 2012 World Twenty20, was ignored by the selectors last month when they announced the squad for next month's World T20 in India.
"Chasing 174 in the final without experience is very important. You can't do it without experience. Dwayne Smith has a lot of experience having played a lot of Twenty20 cricket all around the world," Islamabad captain Misbah-ul-Haq said in praise of the West Indies batsman.
Quetta captain Sarfraz Ahmed doffed his hat at Smith's efforts and agreed it was the match-turning moment. "Zabardast (excellent) innings he played. Every shot he played came off and you just have to admire it," Sarfraz said.
On the eve of the final, Quetta had been revved up by their team mentor, West Indies legend Viv Richards. "Belief, just believe and you will get what you want," Richards told the players. "Do not be afraid or embarrassed to strut your confidence." Smith believed. Smith was confident. Smith delivered.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo