LAHORE: A partisan home crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium had gone quiet as Lahore Qalandars looked to be faltering in another chase. Having lost all four of their matches while batting second this season, the defending champions looked headed for another defeat in Eliminator-2 of Pakistan Super League against Peshawar Zalmi on Friday night.
A spot in Saturday’s final against Multan Sultans beckoning the winner, Qalandars fans had seen the back of top-order lynchpins Fakhar Zaman and Abdullah Shafique, their side reduced to 69-3 in their chase of 172. They needed a partnership and it was there that opener Mirza Tahir Baig and Sam Billings combined for a brisk 50-run stand that steadied their innings and helped their fans find their voice.
Tahir had seen his opening partner Fakhar perish trying to go big; bowled by Azmatullah Omarzai in the second over, debutant Ahsan Hafeez depart for 15 when attempting to hit out and only succeeding in getting an edge off Wahab Riaz that was snapped up by keeper Haseebullah Khan. He then played his part in a horrible mix-up that saw Abdullah run out for 10.
Billings could’ve gone early too after a miscommunication with Tahir but he went to his partner and calm things down. From there on, Tahir was more assured, a cut off Wahab that got him a boundary signalling the change in mindset. Billings got his first two boundaries in the next over, the 11th, bowled by Salman Irshad — one of Zalmi’s match-winners in Eliminator-1 against Islamabad United the previous night.
Tahir then drove spinner Mujeeb-ur-Rehman for four over extra cover for four and then bagged consecutive fours off Aamer Jamal before reaching his six with a towering six over fine leg. He was gone next ball, though, attempting a scoop but getting an edge through to Haseeb, for a 42-ball 54 that featured seven fours and two sixes.
But Billings (28) and Sikander Raza (23) ensured the momentum didn’t shift; keeping the scoreboard ticking with singles and twos before the Zimbabwean cracked two boundaries off Aamer in the 16th over to bring the required rate down to almost run-a-ball.
Salman added a twist by beating Billings with a searing yorker and rattling his middle stump only for David Wiese to drill a four off his first ball. In an eventful 18th over, Raza was dropped, hooked his third four before seeing the top of his off-stump hit by Omarzai’s full-toss but skipper Shaheen Shah Afridi knocked off the winning runs with seven balls to spare with a four and a six off consecutive deliveries by Salman for a four-wicket victory.
It meant Mohammad Haris’ majestic 87 went in vain for Zalmi — the youngster blasting 11 fours and two sixes in his 54-ball knock to power his side to 171-5. Qalandars and Sultans will now meet in a rematch of last edition’s final with Shaheen’s side looking to become the first side to successfully defend their title.
Shaheen had sought to take advantage of a pitch that had been covered for most of the day due to rain and his decision to bowl first seemed to have reaped dividends when Zaman Khan cleaned up the dangerous Saim Ayub (10) with a length delivery that swung in late and went through the gate in the second over.
Saim had got two fours off Shaheen in the opening over and first-drop Haris, alongside Babar, ensured Zalmi got at least one boundary in each of the next nine overs; the former delivering a statement of his intent when he scooped Shaheen for a six over fine leg in the pacer’s second over.
There was frustration for Shaheen when Haris was dropped by Fakhar, at full stretch, on mid-off, with the ball going to the boundary and Haris ended the fifth over with a four past third man.
Haris was unrelenting; belting three boundaries in Rashid Khan’s first over — the highlight of them being a scoop down fine leg — before Babar pulled and cut the Afghan spinner as he returned to bowl the 10th.
The 11th over by Ahsan was the first in which no boundaries were struck and paved the way for Rashid to take two wickets in the next over. A googly saw the end of Babar, lbw for a 36-ball 42 which included seven fours and Rashid then got Tom Kohler-Cadmore, holding on to a tame return catch.
It was in Rashid’s final over that saw a 22-ball boundary drought ended by Haris, who launched the Afghan for a six over mid-wicket and get a four down fine leg.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa (25 not out) also got on the act but it was Haris who was playing some stupendous shots; his final four being a standing reverse off Shaheen that came off the back of his bat that flew over third man before he fell in the same over, caught by Fakhar in the deep.
Rajapaksa got his third and fourth boundaries off Haris Rauf in the penultimate over before Zaman dismantled the stumps of Aamer Jamal in the final over, which featured a four of the last ball by Haseebullah that saw Zalmi cross 170. Qalandars, though, were up for a chase this time around.
Batters & modes of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR
Saim Ayub b Zaman 9 5 2 0 180.00
Babar Azam lbw b Rashid 42 36 7 0 116.66
Mohammad Haris c Fakhar b Shaheen 85 54 11 2 157.40
Tom Kohler-Cadmore c & b Rashid 0 2 0 0 0.00
Bhanuka Rajapaksa not out 25 18 4 0 138.88
Aamer Jamal b Zaman 1 3 0 0 33.33
Haseebullah Khan not out 5 2 1 0 250.00
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-1, W-2) 4
TOTAL (for five wickets, 20 overs) 171
DID NOT BAT: Wahab Riaz, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Salman Irshad
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-15 (Saim), 2-104 (Babar), 3-104 (Kohler-Cadmore), 4-153 (Haris), 5-165 (Aamer)
BOWLING: Shaheen 4-0-41-1, Zaman 3-0-20-2, Wiese 3-0-22-0, Rashid 4-0-42-2, Haris 4-0-31-0, Ahsan 2-0-13-0 (2w)
Batters & modes of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR
Mirza Tahir Baig c Haseebullah b Aamer 54 42 7 2 128.57
Fakhar Zaman b Omarzai 6 5 1 0 120.00
Ahsan Hafeez c Haseebullah b Wahab 15 10 2 1 150.00
Abdullah Shafique run out (Babar) 10 10 0 0 100.00
Sam Billings b Salman 28 21 3 0 133.33
Sikandar Raza b Omarzai 23 14 3 0 164.28
David Wiese not out 9 7 1 0 128.57
Shaheen Shah Afridi not out 11 4 1 1 275.00
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-8, W-8) 20
TOTAL (for six wickets, 18.5 overs) 176
DID NOT BAT: Rashid Khan, Haris Rauf, Zaman Khan
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-14 (Fakhar), 2-38 (Ahsan), 3-69 (Abdullah), 4-119 (Tahir), 5-147 (Billings), 6-161 (Raza)
BOWLING: Mujeeb 4-0-35-0 (1w), Omarzai 4-0-31-2 (1w), Wahab 3-0-20-1, Aamer 3-0-32-1, Saim 1-0-5-0, Salman 3.5-0-42-1 (2w)
RESULT: Lahore Qalandars won by four wickets.