KARACHI: Shoaib Malik led from the front as five-time champions Sialkot Stallions galloped into the final of the Faysal Bank T20 Cup with a workmanlike eight-wicket victory over Lahore Eagles at the National Stadium here on Saturday. Malik, the former Pakistan captain, played an inspirational 49-ball innings of 88, bludgeoning nine fours and three sixes sixes to see his team through to the final.
Chasing a sizeable 168 to make their sixth final, the Stallions were home with seven deliveries to spare. Their opponents in Sunday’s final will be the winners of the other semi-final between Rawalpindi Rams and Peshawar Panthers which was being played at the time of filing this report.
Malik, undeterred by loss of both openers Imran Nazir (4) and Shakeel Ansar (2) in successive overs from ex-international Junaid Zia that left the Stallions in trouble at 9-2, took the game away from the Eagles with his splendid knock.
The diminutive Shahid Yousuf played the anchor’s role to perfection in a rollicking stand of 127 in just 82 balls. Shahid fell to Junaid in the 17th over after scoring a 44-ball 49 with five hits to the fence.
Junaid was easily the pick of Eagles’ bowling with excellent return of three for 23.
The Eagles, one could say, were quite unlucky when umpire Zameer Haider didn’t answer in affirmative to a vociferous leg-before-wicket appeal against Malik in the 14th over off leg-spinner Saad Nasim. Malik was then on 38 with the total on 94-2 as TV replays clearly showed the ball hitting the off-stump.
But even with that lucky escape, Malik played an outstanding knock that included.
The Eagles elected to bat on a good-looking track after Taufiq Umar won the toss. They launched their innings at a blistering pace with the in-form Imran Farhat batting superbly to make 73 from 44 balls in a punishing knock as he tore into the left-arm opening attack of Sarfraz Ahmed and Naved Arif with a flurry of boundaries.
Imran, eager to please the national selectors yet again in this format of the game, having mustered mere 41 runs in five Twenty20 Internationals, has seldom batted as sensibly as he did on this occasion against a resourceful bowling combination that Malik had at his disposal.
National selector Mohammad Ilyas, who was also present at the stadium, would have obviously enjoyed the manner in which his son-in-law Imran carved 11 boundaries and a six to enthrall the crowd.
While Imran was going along merrily, Taufiq was also not far behind as the left-handed opening combination posted 86 runs in the first eight overs before the Eagles skipper was trapped leg-before-wicket by Malik at the start of the next over for a 20-ball 33.Once the opening stand was broken, the Stallions gained control in the field as Malik and Rana Naved bagged two wickets each.
Scoreboard LAHORE EAGLES: Imran Farhat b Malik 73 Taufiq Umar lbw b Malik 33 Azhar Ali c Malik b Rehman 11 Kamran Sajid run out 2 Ali Azmat b Raza 18 Adnan Akmal run out 4 Waqas Ahmed b Rana Naved 10 Junaid Zia c Sarfraz b Rana Naved 1 Abid Ali run out 2 Saad Nasim not out 2 Mustafa Iqbal run out 1
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-2, W-7) 10 TOTAL (all out, 19.3 overs) 167 FALL OF WKTS: 1-86, 2-121, 3-123, 4-123, 5-147, 6-148, 7-157, 8-161, 9-164. BOWLING: Sarfraz Ahmed 3-0-31-0 (1w); Naved Arif 1-0-16-0; Shoaib Malik 4-0-30-2; Raza Hasan 3.2-0-27-1 (1w); Rana Naved-ul-Hasan 4-0-23-2 (1w); Abdul Rehman 4-0- 36-1 (2w).
SIALKOT STALLIONS: Imran Nazir b Junaid 4 Shakeel Ansar c Azhar b Junaid 2 Shahid Yousuf b Junaid 49 Shoaib Malik not out 88 Ali Khan c Azhar b Mustafa 4 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan not out 6
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-3, W-14) 18 TOTAL (for four wkts, 18.5 overs) 171 FALL OF WKTS: 1-6, 2-9, 3-136, 4-142. DID NOT BAT: Qaiser Abbas, Abdul Rehman, Sarfraz Ahmed, Naved Arif, Raza Hasan. BOWLING: Junaid Zia 4-0-23-3 (3w); Mustafa Iqbal 4-0-33-1 (3w); Ali Azmat 2-0-18-0; Waqas Ahmed 3.5-0-47-0 (3w); Imran Farhat 2-0-15-0; Kamran Sajid 2-0-19-0 (1w); Saad Nasim 1-0-12-0.
RESULT: Sialkot Stallions won by six wickets. UMPIRES: Riazuddin and Zameer Haider. TV UMPIRE: Nadeem Ghauri. MATCH REFEREE: Khateeb Rizwan. MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shoaib Malik.