Shane Watson plays a cut shot during his knock of 91 against Peshawar Zalmi. Image Credit: PSL Twitter

Abu Dhabi: With a thawing in the recent tensions between Pakistan and India, there is a renewed vigour among the players and team franchises currently taking part in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Abu Dhabi.

And one could sense that when the capital’s Zayed Cricket Stadium played host to their maiden PSL encounter on Monday.

The clash between front-runners Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators drew sizeable crowd but more than the contest, the excitement was about the home fixture, which most foreign players have agreed to be a part of.

Last-ditch travel plans and ticket bookings for the Karachi leg, starting on March 9, were in full swing with flights resuming from the UAE on Sunday.

After the toss on Monday, it was business as usual and Quetta, riding on the knocks from Australian Shane Watson — 91 not out off 55 — and Ahmad Shehzad — 50 off 45 — chased down the total of 166 set by Peshawar Zalmi, for the loss of just two wickets.

“It is a beautiful place to play here in Abu Dhabi. I have always enjoyed playing here,” said a delighted Watson, who had already scored an 81 (not out) and 61 in this edition of the PSL. “It is the closest to what you get to play in Australia with regards to wicket. It has some good pace and bounce in it. It was nice to get my innings going.”

Watson, however, is still undecided about going to Karachi and will discuss the matter further with his family. “This is something that I have been talking to my family about,” he said. “I was talking to them about playing a game. I will continue to talk to my wife and mum and dad about it. I know I absolutely love to go to Pakistan, the support that I will get there and I loved playing against them. I will continue to talk and see.”

With this success, Quetta are top of the standings with 12 points from eight matches and have confirmed their play-off berth. Peshawar remain in second spot with 10 points.

Quetta suffered an early setback with the wicket of Ahsan Ali but thereafter Watson and Shehzad were in complete control of the proceedings and totally outshined their opponents under the lights.

The duo put on a match-winning partnership of 129 off 88 balls for the second wicket. Watson’s knock was highlighted by six fours and the same number of sixes, while Shehzad’s innings was laced with five fours. When Shehzad was bowled by Umaid Asif with a yorker, Quetta still needed 29 runs from four overs but they got home in 17.4 overs without losing any further wickets.

Earlier, put in to bat, Peshawar were given impetus by Kamran Akmal, who may have beefed up a bit but showed he can still make runs. He entertained the fans with a scintillating 72 off 50 deliveries. West Indian Andre Fletcher, at the other end, also played a supportive role before Fawad Ahmad ended that 58-run stand with the former’s wicket. Kamran then reached his 50 from 35 deliveries. Imam-ul-Haq made 13 but the big West Indian Kieron Pollard provided the necessary thrust with a fiery 44 off 21 balls once Kamran was bowled by Hasnain Mohammad in the 17th over.

Skipper Darren Sammy bowled a superb last over in which he conceded just three runs and also picked up the wicket of Dwayne Bravo as Peshawar managed to reach 165-4 in 20 overs.

Brief scores:

Quetta Gladiators beat Peshawar Zalmi by eight wickets. Peshawar Zalmi 165-4 in 20 overs (Akmal 72, Pollard 44; Nawaz 1-24) Quetta Gladiators 166/2 in 17.4 overs (Watson 91, Shehzad 50; Gul 1-34).