For a large number of people, this was the day the PSL finally fulfilled its purpose: giving Shahid Afridi
the platform to win a game for his side once more. In a contest between two teams where it looked like neither wanted to win at times, Afridi scored a 23-ball 45 to give Peshawar Zalmi a last-over, two-wicket win over first-place Quetta Gladiators.
The chase of 129 appeared comfortable for Peshawar near the halfway mark, whatever demons the pitch contained. But it was the demons in the mind that really frightened Darren Sammy's men, and, as has been the theme of the competition over the last few days, Peshawar found a way to complicate a straightforward chase. Five wickets were lost for two runs over 12 balls as Quetta looked like they were about to do to Peshawar what Peshawar had done to Lahore on Friday.
Then Afridi - yes, Afridi! - restored some sanity to proceedings in a crucial 37-run partnership with Mohammad Hafeez, before taking charge of the run chase. He threatened to run out of partners, and overs, but finished the match with two fours off the first two balls of the 20th.
Peshawar had earlier kept the opposition down to 128 by exploiting the prodigious turn the surface provided, putting Quetta on the back foot immediately when Mohammad Asghar
dismissed both openers in the second over. Rilee Rossouw and Kevin Pietersen then consolidated with a mature 86-run partnership, but superb death bowling by Wahab Riaz
and Hasan Ali meant Peshawar could never build on the good work earlier, and only 16 came off the last four overs as Quetta limped to the end of the innings to a total they couldn't quite defend.
When a collapse of the magnitude that struck Peshawar today happens, it's not unusual for a side to crumble altogether. So when 50 for 1 became 52 for 6, it was imperative for Peshawar to slow things down and take the sting out of the game so heads could be cleared and brains unscrambled.
Hafeez and Afridi played a vital role for the 6.3 overs they were together. They might have added only 37 runs in that period, but in a small chase, the asking rate was never going to be as much of a problem as the wickets in hand. When Hafeez finally nicked Tymal Mills
- who in his own right was also sensational - to Sarfraz Ahmed, the asking rate was still under ten. With Afridi there, the game was on.
That it was a good pitch for the spinners was fairly obvious, but what most caught the eye were the bowling efforts of Wahab and Hasan, whose combined figures of 8-0-39-4 were testament to their excellence. Hasan was impressive at both top and tail of the innings, varying his pace intelligently and nailing the yorker almost on command, in addition to taking three catches. Wahab's most impressive attribute was his raw pace and bounce in the death overs, which was simply too good for Peshawar's middle order as they began to lose wickets in a heap. A perhaps unintentional contribution from Wahab came in the dismissal of Umar Gul, who went off rubbing his hand and didn't bowl an over during Peshawar's innings.
In a game of small margins such as this one, Zulfiqar Babar will look back at his first over and think he might have done better. Defending 128, Quetta would have wanted a good start but Zulfiqar, mildly put, failed to provide them that. The first four balls of the innings all went for wides. One even escaped Sarfraz and cost Quetta a couple of extra runs, and it wasn't until the fifth ball went down that a legitimate delivery had been bowled. The over included one more wide after that, and despite only four runs coming off the bat, Peshawar had eleven on the board at the end of their first over. It might not have been decisive, but it certainly wasn't helpful.
Peshawar take Quetta's place at the top of the table with this win, with the Gladiators slipping to second. Both sides are on nine points, but Sammy's side has a superior net run rate.