Title defences are not for everyone, and it certainly took a toll on Quetta Gladiators, who, after winning the PSL in 2019, have seen an alarming slump in their form. In the follow-up campaign in 2020, they were a shell of their former self, finishing second to bottom and missing out on the playoffs.
They began the 2021 campaign where they left the previous one and managed to win just one of their first five matches before Covid-19 breached the so-called biosecure bubble back in March and sent the league on a hiatus. On the evidence of their latest match, which was played last night, it is clear that their fortunes have not changed at all.
The Gladiators were brushed aside in a 10-wicket defeat by Islamabad, who dominated in all three facets of the game, first restricting Quetta to just 133 all-out and then reaching the target without losing a single wicket.
Quetta are now bottom of the points table and need a miracle to somehow claw their way back into the tournament. Right now they are on the edge but defeat tonight against Zalmi would most likely also close on them the slightly ajar mathematical door to stay alive.
Peshawar have played one game so far in the Abu Dhabi leg – a match they lost to Lahore by 10 runs. Their defeat was masterminded by Lahore’s Rashid Khan, whose five-wicket haul, in the words of Shoaib Malik, “broke our back”.
But there is no shame in letting yourself be fooled by the Afghan trickster. Rashid does that to almost everybody he hurls the ball at. Zalmi’s actual test will begin tonight.
What should concern them though is that their bowling unit allowed Lahore to recover from 25-4 to 170-8, and then saw most of their batting unit collapse, with the exception of Shoaib Malik.
Still, no assumptions can be made on the basis of just one game. Zalmi still are fourth on the points table and could soar to second tonight if things go their way.