The 61-run defeat means the Gladiators now have just one win in seven matches
Peshawar Zalmi 197 for 5 (Miller 73, Akmal 59, Powell 43*, Nawaz 2-33) beat Quetta Gladiators 136 for 9 (Sarfaraz 36*, Ayub 35, Irfan 3-27, Umaid 2-17) by 61 runs
A misleading start
Having chosen to bowl, the Gladiators would have been thrilled with how they began. Mohammad Nawaz picked up two wickets in his first two overs, and Akmal and Miller, the third-wicket pair, seemed to struggle for timing on a pitch that appeared two-paced. At the end of their powerplay, Zalmi were 22 for 2, with Akmal batting on 5 off 16 balls, and Miller on 12 off 13.
Zalmi blast off
The turnaround began with the introduction of the legspinner Zahid Mahmood, who kept floating balls into Miller’s hitting arc in the eighth and the tenth overs. Miller hit him for two sixes and a four, all in the arc between the sightscreen and deep midwicket, all to the audible disgust of the Gladiators’ wicketkeeper-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
The Gladiators’ spin-heavy attack suddenly seemed vulnerable, with Akmal and, in particular, Miller now looking well-set. Left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan, having conceded just eight off his first two overs, went for three fours in his third. Nawaz, who had figures of 2 for 13 after three overs, was taken apart in his fourth, with Miller hitting him for a six and a four over midwicket and extra-cover respectively, and Akmal capitalising on width to pick up two fours.
The carnage didn’t stop there, as the part-timer Cameron Delport entered the attack and promptly went for 25 in what turned out to be his only over. This meant Zalmi had scored 104 runs in their last seven overs, and began the 15th over at 134 for 2.
Hasnain trapped Akmal lbw with an inducker – which was deemed to be hitting the top of leg stump after the Gladiators reviewed the on-field not-out decision – at the start of the 15th over, but Zalmi’s scoring didn’t let up. Miller fell two overs later for a 46-ball 73, but Rovman Powell kept the hitting going, smashing five sixes in an unbeaten 19-ball 43, including an eye-catching whip over square leg off Khurram Shahzad, and three in the final over, which was bowled by the legspinner Zahid.
Gladiators fall off the pace
Saim Ayub, the 19-year-old left-hand batter, came on as du Plessis’ concussion substitute, and opened alongside Usman Khan. They put on 62 for the first wicket, but only briefly threatened to match the pace of Zalmi’s scoring. This brief flash of promise came when Usman, stepping away to the leg side to manufacture room, chipped and carved Irfan for 4, 4, 6 off the first three balls of the fourth over.
That aside, the Zalmi bowlers ensured both batters kept hitting well-protected areas of the field, and the pressure eventually led to Usman holing out in the eighth over, off Fabian Allen’s left-arm spin. Ayub, who put away any width he was offered, struggled against other lines, and moved to 35 off 30 before falling to Irfan, sending a leading edge ballooning into backward point’s hands.
Irfan followed that up with two more wickets in the same over; Azam Khan caught at long leg, and Delport bowled first ball, playing down the wrong line. At 70 for 4, needing 128 from the last ten overs, the Gladiators were all but out of the contest.
They all but disappeared in the 12th over, when Umaid Asif came on and dismissed Jake Weatherald and Nawaz with his first two balls. All that remained was for Sarfaraz to score an unbeaten 36 and ensure his side weren’t bowled out.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo