The final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) will catch the attraction of around 25 million people around the world, which the officials of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are terming unprecedented in the cricketing history of Pakistan. "PCB expects historic turnout of people on electronic and digital platforms for watching the PSL final," an official of PCB told Business Recorder.
The two top teams - Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi will clash in the 'all-tickets-sold-out' final at the National Stadium Sunday. The match will start at 8pm, however, the closing ceremony will begin at 6pm. Spain's football star Carles Puyol would be a special guest at the closing ceremony. The Barcelona central defender earned 100 international caps and won the Euro 2008 and FIFA World Cup 2010.
Quetta have beaten Peshawar in both the league matches this season, before having the better of their arch-rivals in the Wednesday's qualifier at the back of a powerful performance, but they are wary of a 'knock-out' by Daren Sammy-led Peshawar Zalmi. Despite beating Peshawar in the qualifiers in 2016 and 2017 in thrilling last-over finishes by one-run, Quetta lost in the 2017 final by 58 runs in Lahore and in the eliminator 1 last year. Quetta captain Sarfaraz Ahmed hoped it will be a case of 'third-time lucky'. "We are playing the final for the third time, so we will do our best to play in the same manner which we had adopted throughout the tournament," Sarfaraz told mediapersons. "If you look at previous years, there were some factors which hurt us as some players didn't come," said Sarfaraz recalling the Lahore final when Kevin Pietersen and Rilee Rossouw refused to come to Pakistan citing security reasons.
Last year, Watson decided to stay away for the Eliminators in Lahore, leaving Quetta depleted. But this time Watson, who has amassed 423 runs in the tournament, made a late decision to visit Karachi. "This time, we are at our full strength, so we will do our best to play like we have done and win the tournament." Peshawar skipper Sammy admitted Watson has plagued his team. "Shane Watson has really been the pain for us," said Sammy of the former Australia opener, who has 265 runs at 66.25 in five matches against Peshawar in two years. "He is pretty experience and he is enjoying his form." But Sammy hoped his team will give another knock-out punch. "Hopefully, it's a cracker of a game and we find ways and means to execute our plans against them and we will need that but that Shane Watson guy is pain for us."
Quetta have mostly chased targets and their two wins against Peshawar came by six and eight wickets, respectively before they had the better of their rivals by 10 runs in the play-off in Karachi.
Sarfaraz said he was looking for a good platform from his top-order. "Watson and Umar Akmal are quality players." Besides Watson, Umar (277 runs in 11 matches), Rossouw (256 in 10 matches) and Shahzad (253 runs in seven matches) are in good nick. Peshawar are more reliant on Kamran Akmal, who Sammy described as his "match-winner", having knocked off 336 runs in 12 games. Peshawar also has powerful pace attack, led by tournament's highest wicket-taker Hasan Ali who has 25 wickets in 12 matches. Experienced pacer Wahab Riaz has 16, followed by Sameen Gul (10), and Tymal Mills and Umaid Asif (seven each).
Sarfaraz admitted Fawad Ahmed is doubtful after being hit on the mouth in the Qualifier against Peshawar, which needed a surgery. Sammy hoped it will be other crackers of a game before a sell-out crowd. "We have some good players, not superstars but effective players. To be able to make three consecutive finals in a row is an achievement. "Winning the final tomorrow will really be the icing on the cake," Sammy said.