Both Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches on the day of Sunday hung in the balance literally until the very last over, and the 2 cliff-hangers gave ideal demonstrations of the merits of low-scoring ties.
Long gone is the gentle balance and harmony between bat and ball that once made cricket, cricket. Now the batsmen reign power and the T20-over game has been one of the greatest entertainments of this shift in power.
In the 1st match on the day of Sunday, Islamabad United handled to defend 132 against Karachi Kings. With 4 required off the last ball, Shane Watson’s ideal Yorker to achieve the game was right up there with any last-ball match-winning boundary.
Peshawar Zalmi were not that fortunate in the 2nd match, as Quetta Gladiators handled to chase down their 136-run goal. But not before the teams played out just another nail-biter and it needed few hefty hitting from Anwar Ali and Elton Chigumbura to take Quetta over the line.
It is yet early days for PSL, but Lahore’s Umar Akmal-influenced 193 on the day of Monday was the mere time that a team ran away with the game in the 1st innings. The Lahore-Quetta match was the 1st time in 8 matches that the aggregate points crossed 300.
For comparison, the year 2015 Indian Premier League — the strong yardstick against which entire T20 leagues are measured — had 35 matches out of a total of 60 in which more than 300 runs were made by both teams collectively or combined.
What this means is that the PSL is distinctly lacking in the type of run-frenzies that tend to amuse various casual fans. No lusty blow after lusty blow, no batsman manipulating the bowling, no scores of 200, and none of the style and glitz that comes with all of that.
But the PSL is not like IPL — its creators or producers have gone out of the way to emphasize upon that fact from day 1. Low-scoring matches are not hindering the league as few may consider. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
Nail-biters such as the one served up on the day of Sunday are ample proof that entertainment or amusement in cricket does not exclusively deploy in sixes and fours. The PSL can be for the legions that do not lust for runs merely, for those who yet heave wistful sighs when the names of males like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are expressed in hushed whispers.
The meek surrendering of Quetta in the match against Lahore made for worst viewing — one-sided matches are frequently a threat for games in which the side batting first scores major.
In cricketing perspectives, choosing for pitches that assist the bowlers may also prove to be a victorious strategy. Pakistan’s batting has always been their weakness, and by raising the next generation on bowling-friendly pitches, the country may well generate batsmen that know how to penetrate the moving ball; whether it be seam, swing or turn.
But it’s not without its pitfalls either. Young bowlers like Usama Mir, Ziaul Haq and Mohammad Nawaz — all of whom have inspired so far in the PSL and are being touted as potential mainstays in the bowling attack of the future of Pakistan — have little experience addressing with batsmen wreaking havoc.
They do not know what it is like to bowl to the best in the world on flat pitches and small grounds. They do not know what it is like to be at the incorrect end of a Chris Gayle or Shahid Afridi demolition. They do not know what it is like to analyze your bowling figures get ruined in the blink of an eye.
To deal with all that, they require nerves of steel, hearts as huge as bats these days and the best of all teachers — experience. But they are receiving valuable little of that last one here, where swing, bounce and turn are present for all who know how to seek them.
Young batsmen too, such as Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam, require learning the art of chasing scores near to or in excess of 200; the runs still require to be made no matter how dead the pitches may be. And here, with aims nearly never crossing 150, they have not been put under the pressure of being hoped to struck from ball one.
It is unclear whether the pitches and situations that have yielded such fewer score are an outcome of design or condition, but if matches in the PSL sustain to be this closely fought, and then few would be complaining by the end of it.