LAHORE: Faisalabad Wolves ended an eight-year drought after a blazing Asif Ali knock inspired them to dethrone Sialkot Stallions as the Faysal Bank Super Eight T20 Cup Champions with a 36-run victory in the final at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Sunday night.
Asif, the 21-year-old right-hander known for power hitting, justified his promotion to the pivotal No 3 slot with a superlative 70 as the Wolves posted 158-3 after Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss in the 7:00pm start fixture.
The Stallions, winners of the second edition of the event at Rawalpindi a year ago, stuttered in their chase when they lost four wickets for 26 runs in the opening seven overs and never really got their acts together to get anywhere closer to retaining their crown.
After Saturday’s spine-chilling thrillers in the shape of those semi-finals, the final proved a total anti-climax as the Stallions slumped to 122 all out, while handing Misbah and his team a thoroughly deserved victory.
The Wolves had been the bridesmaids in a number of National T20 events after winning the inaugural tournament on the very same ground in April 2005 when they defeated Karachi Dolphins in the final under Naved Latif’s captaincy.
The Wolves, thrice runners-up in the National Twenty20 Cup, were hugely boosted by the return of Saeed Ajmal after Pakistan’s ace off-spinner had skipped the previous matches on health grounds.
Misbah was relieved to be in the title-winning T20 side for the first time in his long career. “It was all due to the team we had here. I think everyone chipped in well and played their part in giving the trophy we all wanted to win in front of such a huge turnout tonight,” Misbah said at the post-match presentation after receiving the trophy and the winners’ prize of Rs2.5 million.
The Wolves captain was also declared the best batsman of the tournament after totalling 206, while his young team-mate Ehsan Adil won the best bowler award for taking 12 wickets, including three in the final. Lahore Lions’ Kamran Akmal (seven catches) and Ahmed Shehzad (five catches) won the best wicket-keeper and fielder prizes, respectively.
The Wolves had the game under control for the major parts despite losing Farrukh Shehzad (8) and Ali Waqas (1) early on. Khurram Shehzad (30 off 31 balls, five boundaries) initiated the gradual dominance as he and Asif combined to add 63 in 56 balls.But the icing on the cake was provided by Misbah who not only inspired Asif to show his true mettle but also ensured the Wolves would make life extremely tough for Shoaib Malik’s charges in the second half.
In a well-calculated late charge, Asif and Misbah plundered a staggering 61 in the last four overs.
The defining moment came from Misbah who twice cleared the long-on region with hefty blows off paceman Umaid Asif’s last two deliveries in the penultimate over.
Asif was not behind in getting the scoreboard moving at great pace as he struck six boundaries and three sixes during his Man-of-the-Match’s 49-ball innings.
Misbah’s calm influence saw the Pakistan Test and one-day captain bludgeon three sixes and a brace of fours before finishing on 38 not out from 25 balls. The unbroken fourth-wicket partnership yielded 79 from 46 deliveries as the pair doubled the score after the fall of Khurram’s wicket.
Shoaib Malik (40 off 39 balls, four fours and one six) and Ayaz Tasawwar (28 off 26) put on 63 in 46 in what was the only stand of some worth during Stallions’ feeble response.
Malik collected the runners-up trophy and Rs1m but looked visibly shattered and drained out at the final outcome.
FAISALABAD WOLVES: Farrukh Shehzad c Shakeel b Umaid 8 Ali Waqas st Shakeel b Shoaib 1 Khurram Shehzad b Raza 30 Asif Ali not out 70 Misbah-ul-Haq not out 38 EXTRAS (LB-7, W-4) 11 TOTAL (for three wkts, 20 overs) 158 FALL OF WKTS: 1-2, 2-16, 3-79. DID NOT BAT: Mohammad Salman, Imran Khalid, Saeed Ajmal, Ehsan Adil, Samiullah Khan Niazi, Asad Ali. BOWLING: Umaid Asif 4-0-32-1 (2w); Shoaib Malik 2-0-10-1 (1w); Abdur Rehman 4-0-26-0; Adeel Malik 2-0-17-0; Raza Hasan 4-0-27-1; Rana Naved-ul-Hasan 4-0-42-0.
SIALKOT STALLIONS: Shakeel Ansar c Salman b Samiullah 4 Ali Khan run out 3 Umaid Asif c Ehsan b Asad 0 Mansoor Amjad run out 3 Shoaib Malik b Ehsan 40 Ayaz Tasawwar c Asif b Ehsan 28 Shahid Yousuf b Asad 12 Adeel Malik c Khurram b Ehsan 0 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan c Ehsan b Saeed 11 Abdur Rehman c Khurram b Asad 3 Raza Hasan not out 1 EXTRAS (LB-10, W-3, NB-4) 17 TOTAL (all out, 19.1 overs) 122 FALL OF WKTS: 1-8, 2-8, 3-10, 4-26, 5-89, 6-97, 7-97, 8-112, 9-120. BOWLING: Samiullah Khan Niazi 4-0-17-1 (1w); Asad Ali 3.1-0-21-3 (1nb); Saeed Ajmal 4-0-21-1 (1w); Imran Khalid 4-1-16-0; Ehsan Adil 4-0-37-3 (1nb, 1w). RESULT: Faisalabad Wolves won by 36 runs. UMPIRES: Kamal Merchant and Shozab Raza. TV UMPIRE: Ahsan Raza. MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Anees. MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Asif Ali.