By our correspondent
LAHORE: Defending champions Lahore Qalandars sets up a Pakistan Super League season eight final date with Multan Sultans after they put Peshawar Zalmi out of contention in the Eliminator 2 here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday night.
Peshawar Zalmi produced 171 runs for five despite middle overs hiccups and Lahore in their chase achieved 176 runs for six in 18.5 overs with seven balls to spare to get four wickets victory.
Saturday’s game would be a repeat of the previous season’s final that Lahore Qalandars won beating Multan Sultans by 42 runs in 2022. Lahore would now not only be looking to avenge their defeat in the qualifier but would also be eyeing their second straight title. It was for the first time the team chasing the runs won the match as previously all the matches played here during the current season was won by the team batting first.
Lahore Qalandars in their approach lacked discipline early on only until Mirza Tahir Baig and Sam Billings brought things under control with their authoritative batting. Their bowling leaked runs in the initial and later in the death overs to allow Zalmi had a solid total. Even in their chase though their run rate was within the limit, they were down two wickets by the start of fifth over.
After Baig’s departure, Billings and Sikandar Raza kept scoring runs flowing and brought the target within Lahore’s reach. But the fall of two wickets of Billings and Raza in the 17th and 18th over turned the match into an interesting phase. However, the score still remained with in Lahore’s reach and David Wiese and Shaheen Shah overhauled the target with the latter hitting a six off Salman Irshad to get win for Lahore.
In start of their chase, their inform batsman Fakhar Zaman dashed down the track away from leg stump to only allow Azmatullah skid the ball crashing into the middle stump.
At 15 for one, Lahore’s debutant Ahsan Hafeez swirled a top edge off Wahab Riaz to short fine leg and keeper Haseebullah took it comfortably. He scored 15 runs in 10 balls (laced with 2×4 1×6) and Lahore had 38 onboard for the loss of two wickets.
Opener Mirza Tahir Baig and Abdullah Shafique after a 31 runs partnership fall apart when the latter was run out while attempting a second run in the 9th over. Abdullah for his 10 runs took as many balls with no hit through the boundary and Lahore then was at 69.
Needing 99 runs now in 66 balls, Lahore was in desperate need of a big innings with Baig and Sam Billings holding the guard. And both these batters responded well to the call providing a 50 runs partnership for the fourth wicket.
In their togetherness Mirza Baig lasted at the crease to face 48 balls to punctuate his first half century while making 54 with the help of seven fours and two maximum while, Billings stayed behind at 17 then.
Billings and Sikandar Raza took the score to 147 and it was then the wicketkeeper batsman was bowled by Salman Irshad. Moments later Raza became the second scalp of Azamatullah. Billings made 21-ball 28 while Raza 14-ball 23. David Wiese (9) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (11) shaved off the remaining deficit to get Lahore Qalandars to their second straight final.
“For me, it’s a massive achievement and a humbling experience. Inshallah we’ll defend our trophy,” said Qalandars allrounder Sikandar Raza.
“Tahir and Sam Billings had a very good partnership. We said instead of slogging, good cricket shots will give you a lot of reward and running hard between the wickets. We plan well to maximize our rest to hydrate well, eat well. Everyone was fit and ran hard between the wickets. Shaheen allows us to speak. It’s not always him. Sam Billings, David Wiese, myself, he opens the floor to let anyone speak. So he always consults others and is a brave captain,” he added.
Azmatullah Omarzai ahd two wickets while Wahab Riaz, who had a pulled hamstring after bowling three overs, Amer Jamal and Salman Irshad shared one wicket each.
The losing team captain Babar Azam said: “We had a good first 11 overs, but then overs 11 to 15 we didn’t score enough. We needed 185. The wicket was a little two-paced. After 10 overs the ball reversed a little bit for the pacers and it became a little difficult. In the end, our bowling was not up to the mark. We were good for 8 to 9 overs in the field, but not the full 20.”
Pacer Zaman Khan penetrated early on in Zalmis batting lineup after he dented Saim Ayub’s (9) wickets with a delivery that came back into the stumps and Peshawar was 15 for one.
But that setback did not disturb Peshawar’s aggressive approach with skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Haris hammering 89 runs in 60 balls for the second wicket to put their team in authority.
However, just then when Lahore needed a breakthrough the most, Rashid Khan clicked in with two back to back wickets in the 12th over. He first sent Babar packing for 42 off 36 balls and then Tom Kohler-Cadmore (0) back to the dug house. Babar, however, surged to the top of batting average for the season with 522 runs thus moving ahead of Mohammad Rizwan who has 516 from 11 matches.
Though, Haris maintained the flow of runs and hit shots at will went on to get his second PSL half century in 28 balls. He continued to frustrate Lahore bowlers but before becoming the only victim of Shaheen Shah Afridi, he scored 85 runs in 54 balls. His impressive knock included 11 fours and two sixes.
Shaheen was quite expensive in his bowling as in his four overs he got one wicket and conceded 41 runs.
Zaman Khan for his second wicket snared Amer Jamal to be the pick of the bowlers for Lahore with figures of two for 20 in three overs. Rashid for his two wickets gave 42 runs.
Peshawar Zalmi opted to bat first after havng made one change. Jimmy Neesham was the one who made way for Bhanuka Rajapaksa after he failed to find good form in this tourney. Ahsan Hafeez made his debut today in place of Hussain Talat.
The winner of today’s match will face Multan Sultans in the final on Saturday, which was as par earlier schedule to be held on Sunday but was brought forward by a day due to weather conditions.
On Wednesday, Lahore lost the Qualifier against Multan Sultans and were accorded another chance to qualify for the final when they face Peshawar.
Meanwhile, Peshawar knocked Islamabad United out of PSL 8 on Thursday after a spirited performance by the Babar Azam-led unit.
By our correspondent