Quetta Gladiators, our pre-tournament tip for glory in the Pakistan Super League, are beginning to motor in their quest for the title. Forgive us while we breathe a sigh of relief because for a while there they looked to be struggling.
Quetta lost three of their first five and we were beginning to worry that a talented squad was about to turn in the sort of performance which would be filed under ‘inexplicable’. They lost their first match to Karachi Kings, failing to chase a gettable 149 as their top order imploded. They were then seen off with no sweat by last year’s champions, Peshawar Zalmi.
But when they were walloped by Multan Sultans by nine wickets, they faced a stark choice. Either they knuckled down or they treated the league as a payday. Luckily for us, they plumped for the former.
It’s now three straight wins for the Gladiators, a sequence that took them top of the table. Pleasingly they have beaten each of their three conquerors to prove that they have put their house in order. The Sultans were squeezed out by two wickets, Kings went down by a big 67 runs and Zalmi by an impressive six wickets.
So are we surprised to see them as big as -125 (William Hill) to beat Lahore Qalanders on Wednesday? You bet we are here. They should be significantly shorter.
That’s because Lahore are bottom of the pile and in all sorts of bother. It is true that they have won their last two – beating Kings in a Super Over and pulling off a major shock by trumping the Sultans – but prior to those outcomes their performances were horrible.
The Qalanders have had such problems that Brendon McCullum, their captain, has offered to resign after he complained that his bowling unit failed to follow instructions. We’ve not heard that one before. Sure, sometimes a bowler misses his line or length but McCullum said his team-mates refused to stick to plans drawn up for batsmen.
Still, their batting has hardly set the league alight. They have busted 140 only twice and they have consistently posted below-par scores. McCullum, a dasher at the top of the order, is so confused he has decided to bat in the middle order.
Against Quetta their ill-discipline will surely mean they are in for a tough time. In Shane Watson Quetta have a one-man team. He is the top runscorer in the tournament with 299 runs and is seventh on the wicket-takers list. He could beat them on his own.