“I wanted to attack Babar from the very first ball, bringing the ball in to him using the blind spot,” the seamer reveals
“In Abu Dhabi, the ball swings a lot under lights and it’s not just for me but everyone who is bowling with pace,” Riaz told ESPNcricinfo. “The first three to four overs are crucial and that is where everyone is trying to extract maximum advantage given the dew later on. Mostly, teams have been struggling against the new ball and losing a bulk of wickets early.
“With a new hard ball and pace, you will get everything if you bowl in right area. I had worked out a plan and wanted to attack Babar from the very first ball, bringing the ball in to him using the blind spot [the left-arm over angle creates]. But once the game goes on, after five overs or so, the swing is reduced and batsmen control back.”
The good work of Riaz and Gul was built upon by Ahmed, playing for Zalmi for the first time this season and in only his fourth T20 game since his debut in the PSL four seasons ago. Ahmed is a rare breed for Pakistan: a finger-spinner who can bowl the carrom ball; his 3 for 14 were the first wickets he’s taken at this level. He had caused a flutter of excitement when he emerged in the 2016-17 season for the Karachi Kings – then coach Mickey Arthur saw him potentially as an answer to Pakistan’s middle-overs bowling – but back injuries have kept him out of the game until last year.
The other new arrival, Zazai, then tore into the total, a remarkable 26-ball 63 on his PSL debut taking Zalmi to 99 in the ninth over, when he was dismissed. His fifty, off 17 balls, was the joint-fastest in the PSL. He took 21 off a Mohammad Amir over, and then 20 by himself off Aamer Yamin. The first six off the latter went outside the ground.
“When my shots started coming off early on, I thought I need to cash in as it’s my day today,” Zazai said after the game. “I liked all the sixes I hit today but the first one off Aamer Yamin was probably my favourite.”
The win took Zalmi to joint-second with the Lahore Qalandars, with some fresh impetus with Ahmed and Zazai in the squad now.