KAMRAN Akmal couldn’t have fashioned out a more poignant moment in the history of the HBL Pakistan Super League to push Peshawar Zalmi into the playoffs of the 2018 edition with a dazzling unbeaten century against Lahore Qalandars as the defending champions won by seven wickets here on Friday.
The 36-year-old wicket-keeper/batsman hammered an unbeaten 107 to record this year tournament’s first three-figure innings — and his second and overall third in the PSL history — in the penultimate match of the preliminary round, which was set to conclude later tonight with Karachi Kings battling to make the playoffs if they beat Islamabad United.
The Pakistan discard, who also reached 5,000 career T20 runs, responded to the huge challenge that the reigning champions had been confronting coming into their final two matches and treated a packed house at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium to sumptuous stroke-play as he crunched 10 boundaries and hoisted seven sixes while keeping the 16,000-plus audience, easily the biggest and boisterous crowd this season, captivated to enable Peshawar comfortably chase down a target of 173 with two overs left unused and moved above Quetta Gladiators into second place on net run-rate.
Despite being hampered by cramps, when he had reached 68 and dropped twice, Kamran always had his sights firmly on a landmark that no other player had attained in the PSL before by becoming the first to score two centuries — Kamran’s other ton being 104 against Karachi in the third qualifying final at Dubai last year — while Sharjeel Khan, now serving a ban imposed by the PCB for spot-fixing during the second edition, scored 117 for Islamabad against Peshawar in the inaugural PSL in 2016.
A relieved Darren Sammy paid glowing tribute to Kamran’s brave innings and termed the century as one of the best he had seen in his long career.
“I think it was a wonderful innings in the do-or-die situation our side was facing. Batting on one leg or not, Kamran scored one of the best knocks and the century among the top ones I have seen,” the Peshawar skipper said during the post-match media conference. “I’m also grateful to the Sharjah crowd because whenever we play the Zalmi fans come in big numbers to lift us. If I’m not wrong Peshawar have not lost a match [the champions winning all four fixtures in the tournament] here this year and that’s all due to the tremendous support from the Sharjah fans.”
Sammy’s Lahore counterpart Brendon McCullum was equally gracious in defeat that ended a run of three straight victories before this encounter.
“All credit to Peshawar and especially to Kamran for playing a special knock this evening. We tried our best to make it tough for them but Kamran took the game away from us,” McCullum told reporters, “We have be realistic because Lahore did not had a great time this year but hopefully the next one would be more productive in terms of results going our way.”
Earlier Anton Devcich played a fine hand of 70 from only 42 deliveries as the New Zealand left-hander bludgeoned seven sixes and a brace of fours to help Lahore post an imposing total in this high-pressured encounter after Fakhar Zaman had been dismissed for only six in the third over.
The explosive Pakistan opener edged Hasan Ali onto the stumps after an early escape while McCullum also perished after contributing just seven runs.
Peshawar’s top three seamers — Hasan, Sameen Gul and Wahab Riaz —bowled tightly while collectively delivering 35 dot balls and conceding only 82 runs in their combined tally of 12 overs.
Fakhar Zaman b Hasan 6
A.P. Devcich c Hafeez b Hasan 70
B.B. McCullum b Sameen 7
Agha Salman c Dawson b Wahab 28
Gulraiz Sadaf not out 26
Sohail Akhtar not out 30
EXTRAS (LB-2, W-3) 5
TOTAL (for four wkts, 20 overs) 172
FALL OF WKTS: 1-19, 2-40, 3-95, 4-119.
DID NOT BAT: Sohail Khan, Bilal Asif, M.J. McClenaghan, Yasir Shah, K.J. Abbott, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
BOWLING: Hasan Ali 4-0-24-2; Sameen Gul 4-0-26-1 (2w); Umaid Asif 4-0-41-0 (1w); Wahab Riaz 4-0-32-1; Dawson 4-0-47-0. PESHAWAR ZALMI: Kamran Akmal not out 107 M.H. Wessels b Abbott 4 D.R. Smith b Yasir 14 Mohammad Hafeez b Yasir 27 Saad Nasim not out 17 EXTRAS (LB-1, W-6) 7 TOTAL (for three wkts, 18 overs) 176 FALL OF WKTS: 1-20, 2-61, 3-148. DID NOT BAT: D.J.G. Sammy, L.A. Dawson, Umaid Asif, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Sameen Gul. BOWLING: Devcich 1-0-19-0 (2w); Abbott 3-0-25-1 (1w); McClenaghan 4-0-44-0 (1w); Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-0-28-0; Yasir Shah 4-0-40-2; Bilal Asif 2-0-9-0.
RESULT: Peshawar Zalmi won by seven wickets. UMPIRES: Shozab Raza (Pakistan) and Rashid Riaz (Pakistan). TV UMPIRE: Asif Yaqoob (Pakistan). MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Anees (Pakistan). MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Kamran Akmal.
Current standings (Tabulated under played, won, loss, no result, points, net run-rate): Islamabad United 9 7 2 0 14 +0.467 Peshawar Zalmi 10 5 5 0 10 +0.464 Quetta Gladiators 10 5 5 0 10 +0.312 Karachi Kings 9 4 4 1 9 -0.118 Multan Sultans 10 4 5 1 9 -0.191 Lahore Qalandars 10 3 6 0 6 -0.931
*Standings updated before start of Islamabad United vs Karachi Kings match on Thursday night. Teams mentioned in bold have qualified for playoffs.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2018