The Sharjah Cricket Stadium has hosted some of the most riveting encounters over the years. And so it comes as no surprise that some of the most exhilarating moments of this year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) also occurred at the same venue.
Before the league entered its first Sharjah leg, it lacked the flavour and excitement that a T20 league of its stature should have. But a few matches into the first Sharjah leg, the league had its fervour back.
Imran Tahir is one of the hottest properties in white-ball cricket, which explains why Multan Sultans chose him as their first pick in the platinum category. Just three matches into the PSL 2018, he had the best average and strike rate for a leg-spinner to have bowled more than 10 overs in the history of the league.
He was one of the two bowlers behind Quetta Gladiators’ epic batting collapse that saw them lose their last five wickets for just one run.
After Sohail Tanvir had picked two wickets in two balls, Sultans’ skipper Shoaib Malik handed the ball to Tahir to bowl the 16th over. The leggie ran over the last three batsmen to record a PSL hat-trick as he clean bowled Hassan Khan and John Hastings before hitting Rahat Ali’s pads in front of stumps.
He became only the third bowler in the history of the league to secure a hat-trick behind Mohammad Amir (who took a hat-trick in his first PSL match against Lahore Qalandars) and his teammate Junaid Khan (who achieved the feat earlier in the season).
Qalandars and their woeful batting
This season has been all about Lahore Qalandars’ woeful batting displays.
They have been on both the ends of the batting spectrum in almost every innings. Their overall run-rate of 8.61 in the powerplay overs is the highest for any team this season. And, their run-rate under run-a-ball from the seventh over onwards coupled with excessive loss of wickets is the worst for any team (by March 4, 2018).
A comparison with Karachi Kings — who had the best run-rate by the end of the first Sharjah leg in the last 14 overs — makes the picture clearer. The Imad Wasim-led side scored at 7.90 an over and lost 21 wickets in this span. Lahore, on the other hand, lost as many as 40 wickets while scoring at only 5.52 runs per over.
The venue may have changed after the first week of the PSL but that did not bring a change in how Lahore Qalandars went about their batting.
They played two matches at Sharjah and managed 82 for eight against Islamabad United and 47 for nine against Peshawar Zalmi — the worst of their collapses by then — after the powerplay overs.
The Super Over
After 59 matches over the course of three years, the PSL finally had a match decided on a Super Over, thanks to a trademark Lahore Qalandars collapse.
Needing only 45 from 52 balls with as many as eight wickets in hand, Qalandars’ batting line-up faltered as Agha Salman holed out to fine-leg off Mohammad Sami.
They failed to score just seven off the final over despite the presence of Brendon McCullum at the crease. Then, they set Islamabad United a 16-run target in the Super Over.
The Qalandars captain inexplicably preferred Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman over West Indian off-spinner Sunil Narine — who had bowled at an economy of 2.50 in his four overs — to defend the score.
McCullum dropped Asif Ali on the second ball at the long-on boundary, converting a catch into a six as the ball sailed over the boundary rope.
With seven needed off the last two balls, Andre Russell top-edged the penultimate ball for a four over the wicketkeeper’s head and muscled the last ball for a six over the long-on fence to seal the match for his side.
First 10-wicket defeat
All of the Lahore Qalandars’ defeats have been thumping except for the one they lost to Islamabad United mentioned just above.
Their most resounding defeat came almost 24 hours after the Super Over match as Zalmi's opening pair of Kamran Akmal and Tamim Iqbal chased down Lahore’s meagre 100 score in 13.4 overs. Akmal scored a calculated 47-ball 57 and Iqbal contributed 37 runs from 35 balls.
This went down as the first 10-wicket win in the history of the PSL.
Qalandars question umpiring standards
After an umpiring error saw them reeling at four for two just five balls into the chase of Islamabad United’s 121, Lahore Qalandars team manager Sameen Rana urged the Pakistan Cricket Board to ensure umpiring standards were up to the mark in future matches.
The error occurred when Fakhar Zaman was given LBW but when he asked for a review, he was informed by the umpire that his side had exhausted their only chance even though they still had their review intact.
Team owner Rana Fawad also termed the incident "very, very sad."
His side, however, did not register a formal protest with the PCB.