A tournament-best 94-run innings by opener Fakhar Zaman helped Lahore Qalandars defeat Quetta Gladiators by 17 runs in the 26th fixture of the Pakistan Super League in Sharjah on Wednesday.
The hard-hitting southpaw’s blistering 50-ball knock was a major reason the Qalandars registered their third victory on the trot and now have a genuine chance of avoiding the bottom of the points table.
After the Gladiators won the toss and elected to field first, Zaman and Anton Devcich opened the innings for the Qalandars. Anwar Ali and Shane Watson, meanwhile, shared the new ball for the two-time finalists.
Defeats and decent starts have been the two constants for Lahore in PSL 2018. Fortunately, the first one they managed to shake off in their last two games. And fortunately, the second one stuck with them. At least in this game. The Qalandars were 42-0 after 5 overs, with both their left-handed openers once again looking in good touch.
Check out Devcich's pretty flick over the backward square leg boundary for a maximum.
The Devcich-Zaman partnership was broken by Rahat Ali but his dimissal had more to do with Anwar's excellent diving catch than the Rahat's bowling.
The loss of his batting partner did little to alter Zaman's plan. He sent one over the short fine leg boundary for a six the very next ball.
Seventh over saw Karachi-born Mir Hamza introduced into the attack. The left-arm pacer, who impressed the commentators with his smooth bowling action, took a wicket in his first-ever PSL over, bowling out Agha Salman. The risk taken by Salman by coming down the track was completely unnecessary but completely in line with the Qalandars' batting strategy this PSL.
Captain Brendon McCullum joined his deputy in the middle to arrest the fall of wickets. The deputy hit Mohammad Nawaz for a six in the 10th over, at the end of which Lahore were 73-2.
McCullum showed he had learnt nothing from Salman's dismissal; he too danced down the track against the young Hassan Khan and was stumped, leaving his team, not for the first time in PSL 2018, in a lurch.
It was clearly a Hail Mary play rather than calculated risk, which pretty much sums up the ethos of this Qalandars side.
Usually, the Qalandars, when in a similar situation would instantly collapse, but they didn't this time. In fact, they found an extra gear in the next five overs. Both Zaman and Gulraiz Sadaf went after Gladiators bowlers, helping their side to 140-3 after 15 overs.
Zaman, in particular, delivered merciless beating to Rahat in the 15h over, plundering the pacer for 24 runs off just six balls that featured three 6s and a 4.
Zaman's magnificent 50-ball 94-run innings finally came to an end in the 16th over. He fell six runs short of PSL 2018's first ton as Anwar did the damage.
Zaman's departure slowed down the flow of runs for the next few overs. Lahore were still at a more-than-decent 159-4 after 18 overs.
Sadaf contributed an unbeaten 27-ball 42, whereas Sunil Narine chipped in with 20 of his own as the Qalandars amassed their highest score of PSL 2018: 186-4.
With such a massive 187-run target to chase, most teams tend to lose hope early on but not this Quetta side.
The pairing of Watson and Jason Roy provided their side just the start they wanted, with the latter showing no signs that it was his first match of the tournament.
By the end of 5 overs, the plucky side from Balochistan had piled up 52 runs and were clearly unfazed by the massive total they had to chase.
Of those 52, 34 had come off the bat of Roy. His Aussie partner was a bit off colour and it showed when left-arm pacer Afridi had him bowled out.
The young Afridi, our of respect, had not celebrated when he removed his namesake Shahid Afridi in similar fashion in the previous game but he had no such moral dilemmas this time.
Afridi could've had another scalp in the same over had he been quick to react to a leading edge Kevin Pietersen offered to him.
Roy's debut innings in PSL 2018 came to an end in the next over as Narine, who's been excellent with the ball lately, trapped him in front of the wickets.
While Roy disappeared in the dugout, his compatriot — Pietersen — made the ball disappear outside the stadium with a gargantuan six.
Hits like these are rare. But for an umpire to get injured in cricket is rarer, which astonishingly is what happened here.
With that old ball vanished Pietersen's proverbial life as Narine shattered his stumps the very next ball.
Rameez Raja Jr's poor attempt at clearing the long-on fence saw him depart as well. Quetta were sinking in the manner usually associated with Lahore.
Halfway through their innings, Quetta were 76-4 and 111 runs adrift of their target.
The 12th over, bowled by Yasir Shah, was arguably the most action-packed of the tournament. On the opening ball, Rilee Rossouw was adjudged lbw but took a review and was proven right. He smacked a 6 on the next ball, while a stumping chance was missed on the third.
A single later, Anwar Ali was dropped on the penultimate ball of the over but he didn't wise up, top-edging the very next ball — a chance that was accepted.
Having earned a reprieve, Rossouw seemed keen to make it count as he hit Afridi and McCleneghan for two sixes each in the 12th and 13th overs respectively.
But McCleneghan had his revenge, bowling out the South African, who contributed a breezy 22-ball 42.
Of the last 5 overs, the ask for Quetta was to somehow conjure 63 runs, with captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Nawaz in the middle.
Some intelligent batting meant the task after three more overs was: Quetta needed 34 runs off just 12 balls. But Sohail Khan bowled an excellent 19th — his baffling reaction to Shah not responding to him notwithstanding.
Sarfraz and co needed 27 off the final over — a task they couldn't accomplish, falling 17 runs short.
Quetta: J Roy, S Watson, K Pietersen, Rameez Raja Jr, R Rossouw, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Anwar Ali, Hasan Khan, Rahat Ali, Mir Hamza
Lahore: Fakhar Zaman, A Devcich, Agha Salman, B McCullum, S Narine, Gulraiz Sadaf, Sohail Akhtar, Sohail Khan, M McClenaghan, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi