Rain clouds loom over Zalmi, Gladiators’ PSL fate ahead of the crucial fixture

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RAWALPINDI: Both Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators will be keeping their fingers crossed as a fresh spell of rains in the garrison town threatens to disrupt the all-important HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 fixture at the Pindi Cricket Stadium here on Thursday.

According to the local meteorological department, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have wet weather forecast from Wednesday until Sunday. The weather bureau was spot on it rained heavily here on Wednesday just after 2:00 pm for about 90 minutes before turning into light drizzle thereafter.

Peshawar Zalmi, who is currently languishing in fifth place in the six-team standings, was scheduled to hold a three-three practice session from 6:00 pm at the stadium but had to cancel it following the downpour.

Quetta Gladiators are in a state of double shocks after their back-to-back defeats against Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars, respectively, in the space of just four nights. The defending champions had no answer to a rampant Rilee Rossouw century that set up Multan’s 30-run win. The former South African left-hander, who ironically was on Quetta’s payroll in the first four editions of PSL, peppered the Multan Cricket Stadium with a blistering 44-ball 100 not out — the fastest-ever ton recorded in the PSL history — to power his side to 199-5.

And then on Tuesday night, Quetta found Ben Dunk too hot to handle as the discarded Australian bludgeoned a hurricane 93 off just 43 deliveries at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium before the bottom-placed Lahore Qalandars finally celebrated their first success in this year’s tournament, securing a handsome win by 37 runs.

The Sarfraz Ahmed-led Quetta are only a point ahead of Peshawar Zalmi but their net run-rate of -0.452 is fractionally inferior to -0.430 achieved by their arch-rivals’ thus far with both sides having played six matches apiece.

In their first meeting at the National Stadium in Karachi on Feb 22, Peshawar cruised to a six-wicket victory as Kamran Akmal hammered a stroke-filled 101 off 55 balls after Quetta were curtailed to 148-5. So Peshawar does have the psychological edge to carry into Thursday’s clash.

The biggest headache now confronting Sarfraz is how to stop the avalanche of runs in the second slot of 10 overs, and which bowlers to rely on in the death overs of the opposition innings. Both Multan and Lahore plundered runs at will against the holders.

In last Saturday’s match, Quetta had contained Multan reasonably upfront, only to find Rossouw and company breaking the shackles as the remaining 10 overs of their innings yielded 134 runs.

Dunk and Samit Patel were even more ballistic as they collectively savaged the Quetta bowling to the tune of 148 runs from the last 10 overs of the innings.

Quetta is now finding it tough on the batting front, and despite possessing the most destructive pair of openers — Jason Roy and the seasoned Australian Shane Watson — they are feeling the heat during the run-chase.

Sarfraz’s penchant for chasing runs rather than setting decent totals upfront is well documented but the former Pakistan captain must ensure his charges are adequately prepared to tackle any situation because a third successive loss could well jeopardize their playoff qualification.

Peshawar Zalmi, on the other hand, has to resolve serious issues surrounding the playing squad. Regular captain Darren Sammy was dropped for Monday’s encounter which they lost against the resurgent Karachi Kings by six wickets.

Wahab Riaz stood in for Sammy as the team leader but ran out ideas as Babar Azam and Alex Hales cut loose effortlessly as Karachi secured their second game on the trot. Sammy, meanwhile, is expected to take charge because Peshawar Zalmi definitely a dose of inspirational captaincy, provided the rains stay away.

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