Islamabad United v Quetta Gladiators. Buddha-esque Misbah-ul-Haq v restless Sarfraz Ahmed. Eccentric Dean Jones v street-smart Moin Khan. Strategic Wasim Akram against emotional Viv Richards. Powerful Andre Russell against an equally powerful Kevin Pietersen. Ever-confident Ahmed Shehzad v only PSL centurion Sharjeel Khan.
The above mini-duels within the main battle have all the portents to make the final a contest to look forward to. Both teams have taken a different route to the summit:
Quetta did not break too much sweat during the league phase losing just two matches and became the first team to make the final. Islamabad took the more arduous route as they lost four matches in the group phase, but then bounced back with four consecutive wins.
If Quetta hold the edge on paper, it is only because they won both times the teams met earlier. On both occasions, Quetta 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. Quetta 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.
The PSL had started with a maiden. The build-up might have been quiet but there have been quite a few last-over and last-ball thrillers. And Tuesday evening’s finale, despite being a weekday, is sold out.