KARACHI: While Karachi’s National Stadium wore a deserted look during the HBL Pakistan Super League match on Friday, Peshawar Zalmi’s hopes of making through to the semi-finals hung in the balance after suffering a heartbreaking loss by three runs against leaders Multan Sultans.
Match No 27 was played behind closed doors in front of empty stands at the 34,000-capacity venue — hardly an inspiration for players to showcase their prowess. The lack of buzz that the spectators would have provided was tragically missing and the 8pm start added to the gloomy settings.
But there was nothing pessimistic for Multan Sultans, who successfully defended a modest total of 154-5 before securing their sixth victory in nine games, while also guaranteeing themselves a top-spot finish.
Zalmis, on the other hand, now wait anxiously to find out whether they would be making it to the semi-finals after completing their round of fixtures. Their fate hinges on other results from the remaining three league matches.
On a night of weird happenings the sight of Wahab Riaz striding out to bat — after the giant figure of Mohammad Irfan had cleaned up Kamran Akmal for two — as early as the second over was shrouded in mystery. As the captain’s decision to promote himself to the No 3 position backfired, the Peshawar Zalmi think-tank’s philosophy was hard to digest. The motive to demote the prodigiously talented Haider Ali to No 6 came to haunt Peshawar late in the game when the 19-year-old lost his wicket trying to force the pace.
The only signs of life outside the playing field were the presence of accredited personnel in front of the main pavilion building. The silence was interrupted sometimes by playing of the clips of a few songs, including the PSL theme song, in between the overs.
Run down by the exodus of all their overseas players — Tom Banton, Liam Livingstone, Lewis Gregory, Carlos Brathwaite and Liam Dawson — earlier in the day, the challenge faced by Peshawar Zalmi seemed daunting.
Wahab Riaz won a good toss and left nobody in doubt by choosing to field. The solitary partnership of note during the Multan innings was stitched together by the left-handed pair of Zeeshan Ashraf and captain Shan Masood. They put on 60 in 28 deliveries for the second wicket either side of the power play.
Peshawar clawed back when Zeeshan — the top-scorer with 52 from 39 balls — was caught at the wicket off a top-edge by Kamran off left-arm paceman Rahat Ali with the score at 92. In that same over, Rahat forced Moeen Ali to play onto his stumps for a duck.
Shan then saw Ravi Bopara slice a catch straight down the lap of Hammad Azam, who came into the squad as a replacement. He then tried to blast over the top, but managed to get a leading edge which landed safely in Umar Amin’s hands.
The Multan skipper’s 23-ball knock of 28 included three hits to the fence.
Peshawar’s reply replicated that of Multan’s in terms of partnership as their innings featured only one major stand — 70 for the fourth wicket between Imam-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik.
But that turned out be the only bright spot for them.
Umar Amin was the other shining light for Peshawar with an elegant 29 off 23 balls.
The game tilted in Multan’s favour when Peshawar made a mess of scoring 27 runs from the last three overs for victory. Excellent bowling at the death by Sohail Tanvir (3-26) and young Ali Shafiq (2-31) pulled through the leaders.
(Tabulated under played, won, lost, tied, no-result, points, net run-run-rate):
Multan Sultans 9 6 1 0 2 14 +1.307
Karachi Kings 8 4 3 0 1 9 -0.027
Peshawar Zalmi 10 4 5 0 1 9 -0.055
Lahore Qalandars 9 4 5 0 0 8 -0.127
Islamabad United 9 3 5 0 1 7 +0.259
Quetta Gladiators 9 3 5 0 1 7 -1.052
Rohail Nazir c Kamran b Rahat14
Zeeshan Ashraf c Kamran b Rahat52
Shan Masood c Umar b Hasan28
Moeen Ali b Rahat0
R.S. Bopara c Hammad b Amir5
Khushdil Shah not out30
Shahid Afridi c Umar b Wahab19
Sohail Tanvir not out0
EXTRAS (LB-1, W5)6
TOTAL (for six wkts, 20 overs)154
FALL OF WKTS: 1-32, 2-92, 3-92, 4-103, 5-105, 6-134.
DID NOT BAT: Ali Shafiq, Mohammad Irfan, Imran Tahir.
BOWLING: Hasan Ali 4-0-34-1 (1w); Rahat Ali 4-0-24-3; Mohammad Amir Khan 4-0-37-1 (1w); Wahab Riaz 4-0-20-1; Shoaib Malik 3-0-27-0 (2w); Hammad Azam 1-0-11-0.
Kamran Akmal b Irfan2
Imam-ul-Haq c Shan b Sohail56
Wahab Riaz c Moeen b Sohail7
Umar Amin b Moeen29
Shoaib Malik c Afridi b Ali Shafiq30
Haider Ali c Moeen b Ali Shafiq1
Hammad Azam c Zeeshan b Sohail7
Adil Amin not out7
Hasan Ali run out1
EXTRAS (B-5, LB-2, W-6, NB-2)15
TOTAL (for eight wkts, 20 overs)151
FALL OF WKTS: 1-3, 2-8, 3-56, 4-126, 5-128, 6-130
DID NOT BAT: Rahat Ali, Mohammad Amir Khan.
BOWLING: Sohail Tanvir 4-0-26-3 (4w); Mohammad Irfan 4-0-19-1; Ali Shafiq 4-0-31-2 (2nb, 1w); Moeen Ali 4-0-27-1; Imran Tahir 3-0-30-0 (1w); Shahid Afridi 1-0-11-0
RESULT: Multan Sultans won by three runs.
UMPIRES: M.A. Gough (England) and Rashid Riaz (Pakistan).
TV UMPIRE: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan).
MATCH REFEREE: R.S. Mahanama (Sri Lanka).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Zeeshan Ashraf (Multan Sultans).
SATURDAY’S FIXTURE: Karachi Kings vs Islamabad United (7:00pm PST).
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2020