It was sensational what Lahore did yesterday. Already booked for an early ticket out of the UAE but but fresh from their first taste of victory after an embarrassing string of losses, the match was little more than keeping up appearances for the Qalandars.
Yet despite the lessened significance, McCullum’s men decided to take a leaf from the political climate in the country and play king maker, shaking up the entire order of the points table with their single victory which will help them non whatsoever.
For their illustrious opponents in blue, the match was a matter of graduating top of the table from the first stages and getting the advantage of needing to win only one more game and going into the final well rested if they managed to succeed.
The PSL is going to continue to work on the formula that the top ranked teams get two shots at qualifying for the final while the bottom ranked teams needs to win two games to get to the final. Quetta has qualified the first way on both occasions and lost out in the final. The tournament’s two winners, Islamabad United in the inaugural edition and Peshawar Zalmi last year, both had to go through the extra mile of winning one more game.
While the precedent may not be a positive one, Karachi was always going to go for the top spot for which Multan has given them some serious competition. But Lahore’s gutsy performance that took the match to its end in an absolute thriller has turned the tournament on its head.
Formerly looking at accompanying Lahore at the bottom, Islamabad United has creeped up to number 2 after a string of victories, without the other teams being the wiser. The entire team behaved in typical Misbah fashion, consolidating and building without anyone noticing, and sit poised in a position eerily similar to their unlikely win in the first edition.
On the other hand, Quetta seems to have gotten back on track and are cruising at number one as of Lahore’s win over Karachi, much like previous years. Karachi in the meanwhile hangs at number three with former leader Multan Sultans desperately nearing Peshawar Zalmi, who are desperately in need of multiple wins if they are to have any chance of continuing to defend their title.
One worries for Peshawar and with it the PCB, for the board must have been rooting for the team. After all, Peshawar has some of the biggest stars in Pakistan including Darren Sammy. Perhaps the ideal outcome was a Karachi-Peshawar final just to see Afridi and Sammy together in the city of lights, something Lahore missed last year. But with Zalmi hanging with Lahore at the edges, they may not even make it to Lahore and Quetta and Karachi don’t seem to be host to many willing to come over to play in Pakistan. The subsequent dash for replacement foreign players will probably create glaringly obvious drops in quality, something the PSL has otherwise managed to maintain. And without the spectacle of a final and a first (as will be the game in Karachi), the Lahore play offs may not get the same sort of reception as the final did last year.
With so much going on and a PSL points table so changed in the last week before the PSL comes to Lahore, Karachi will be wondering where it all went wrong and Lahore will be wondering how it suddenly became so right?
After all, Karachi’s pain is magnified not just because they lost to arch rival Lahore, but because Lahore did everything wrong to start. They dropped catches and let Karachi score 85 runs in the first ten overs for the loss of one wicket. With Karachi able to put on only as many runs in the final ten for even more wickets, Lahore started getting things right and somehow managed to make it to the 163 mark of a free hit on the last ball.
After that, the super over was pretty much up to fate and some precice bowling by Naraine. And with such a high intensity match shaking things up so thoroughly, the PSL has audibly just entered another gear.