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Watson, Sarfraz power Quetta to top spot

Shane Watson starred with a 31-ball 45.
Shane Watson starred with a 31-ball 45. © Getty
Shane Watson's all-round performance and an unbeaten 31-ball 45 by skipper Sarfraz Ahmed helped Quetta Gladiators overpower Peshawar Zalmi by six wickets in the Pakistan Super League game at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Saturday (March 10). Chasing 158, Gladiators crossed the line with four deliveries to spare to move to the top of the table with their fifth win in eight games.
Despite scoring a boundary in the first over, Asad Shafiq struggled to get going at the start of the chase. But Shane Watson managed to find the ropes regularly, scoring three fours and a six by the time the fourth over was finished. While Shafiq's outing was ended by Hasan Ali, Watson continued in a positive fashion and was looking good for his second successive fifty-plus score. However, Umaid Asif had the better of the Australian when he attempted a pull, only to hand a catch to Kamran Akmal.
With Kevin Pietersen falling for a quick-fire 21 off 13, followed by the dismissal of Rameez Raja, the Gladiators were in a spot of bother at 84 for 4. However, Sarfraz ensured they didn't go into a shell. With timely boundaries and solid strike rotation, Sarfraz, in partnership with Rilee Rossouw, ensured they remained abreast with the required rate, never letting it climb out of comfort.
The equation was 21 off the last three overs when Akmal conceded four byes off Wahab Riaz's bowling, with the ball brushing the wicketkeeper's fingertips. A four through extra cover followed off Sarfraz's bat and Rossouw managed to reverse a leg before decision in the same over. With 11 required off the last two overs, it wasn't much of a problem for the fifth wicket pair to see the chase through, as they did so with an unbroken 74-run partnership.
Earlier, asked to bat, Zalmi suffered an early setback as Kamran Akmal was undone by a superb bit of bowling from young left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz to be bowled for a golden duck in the first over. Smith and Mohammad Hafeez batted in a watchful manner, with only one four coming in the first four overs. The West Indian managed to up the ante by striking two successive sixes off Nawaz in the fifth over but it was a relatively quiet powerplay otherwise, yielding just 37 runs.
Smith was getting into his groove as he hit Hasan Khan for two consecutive sixes to power his side past 50 in the seventh over and managed one more maximum when he cleared the deep midwicket boundary off Watson. However, the bowler had the last laugh as Smith departed one short of a fifty, chapping a catch to Pietersen at cover. Hafeez then got into the act with a couple of hits over the fence but his outing was cut short by Ben Laughlin when the batsman mistimed a pull to be caught at short midwicket.
Zalmi lost two more wickets during the death overs and appeared in danger of finishing with a sub-par total. But Darren Sammy had other ideas as he wielded the long handle to good effect. Having scored a four and a six off Watson in the 17th over, he meted the same treatment to Laughlin, in both the 18th and the 20th overs, as Zalmi managed 50 in the last four overs, although it eventually proved to be less.
Brief scores: Peshawar Zalmi 157/5 in 20 overs (Dwayne Smith 49, Darren Sammy 36*; Shane Watson 2-26) lost to Quetta Gladiators 158/4 in 19.2 overs (Sarfraz Ahmed 45*, Shane Watson 37; Hasan Ali 1-25) by 6 wickets.

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