A lot has changed for Peshawar Zalmi this season. Their captain is now their head coach, their head coach, cricket director. More stories will come out about this change but it is certainly clear that Darren Sammy wasn’t keen on it. Kamran Akmal, who has been their batting star, has had an up and down season so far. Yasir Shah wasn’t part of their initial squad. Now is one of their main bowlers.
The outlier has been the progress of young Haider Ali. He came into the side as a no-holds-barred hitter. If a wicket falls early, come and continue the attack. Tom Banton has been humbled to some degree, so Haider has got a fair few chances. Suffice to say he has impressed one and all. Yet most of those innings came with a carefree attitude. He had the likes of Shoaib Malik, Liam Livingstone, Liam Dawson and others to mop up if he fails.
Yesterday, Peshawar decided to change their tactics. Tom Banton was brought back, Kamran Akmal was given the license to attack from ball one. Liam Livingstone batted at three. Perhaps Peshawar wanted to lay down a foundation to score over 200. It didn’t work out and they found themselves 24-3. In walked Haider Ali at number 5 with the team clearly under pressure.
This was a different challenge for the young opener. He had to bide his time for a little period. Perhaps having Shoaib Malik in against medium pacers also helped. Fitness issues meant there was little consistency of pace from Haris Rauf and Dilbar Hussain. We saw them peaking to 148 but also drop to mid-130s. That gave someone as experienced as Malik ample opportunity to make hay.
But what about the still wet behind the ear Haider Ali? He started off gently but at one point looked a bit anxious. Perhaps Malik helped him reign in any unnecessary adventurism early in the innings. There was a significant moment where Haris Rauf tried to provoke Haider with a bouncer or two. He let one go and Malik walked up to him and said a word.
What happened next showed that Malik knew what was coming. Haider taking that advice was in position for a hook/pull. It easily crossed the leg-side boundary. Malik walked up to him again to offer a series of fist pumps. Rather than a conservative approach, he perhaps advised him to go for it.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t enough. The changes in the team dynamics might be the cause of Zalmi’s patchy form. But for us fans, from this apparent chaos, a new batting hero has emerged.