Lahore Qalandars defeated Islamabad United by six runs in Eliminator 2 match of the Pakistan Super League 22 on Friday night and qualified for Sunday’s final opposite Multan Sultans. Here are our five takeaways from that match:
Match worthy of a final
This match was worthy of being the PSL final. Such was the high level of drama that it should have been the climax that concluded the tournament. The game had everything you could ask for. It had its fight-backs, heroes, zeros, big sixes, rescue acts, stunning catches, idiotic drops, direct-hit run-outs, and to top it off, the final act was worthy of a Hollywood movie.
With five needed, Islamabad’s number 11 batter Waqas Maqsood appeared to have found that sweet connection for a maximum, only to be caught at the deep midwicket boundary line. A yard more and he’d have been the hero. That grab by Abdullah Shafique triggered scenes of jubilation among Lahore players, the likes of which we probably have never seen in PSL. Hometown lad Haris Rauf was overcome with emotions after seeing his team win a closely fought game in front of their own fans.
By the way, that final sequence happened with the added tension of rain pouring down. PSL does not and cannot get better than this.
Shaheen wins battle of young captains against Shadab
A subplot of this fixture was the battle of two young captains in Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi. Shadab led his side superbly all through the PSL and has arguably been the captain of the tournament so far, thanks to his performances both with the bat and ball. But Shaheen also deserves acclaim in what is his first captaincy assignment in PSL.
This time, it was Shaheen who came out on top as Lahore beat Islamabad for the third straight time in this PSL.
With these two perfecting their tactical nous in their franchises, Mohammad Rizwan doing the same with Multan Sultans and Babar Azam captaining Karachi Kings, the national team could suddenly have an embarrassment of riches of captaincy material, big enough to form an entire think tank.
It appears a blessing for the most bit unless it becomes a nuisance a la the 1990s where everyone was a captain in their own right and no one wanted to be the rank and file.
Time up for ageing local stars?
There has been a clear sign during this PSL that time is almost up for some uber experienced and ageing local stars. Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohail Tanvir, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz all had a below average tournament as the fresh-faced youth showed that perhaps it’s their time to take over.
In Friday’s game, where Mohammad Hafeez scored a pedestrian run-a-ball 28, the young Abdullah Shafique had earlier smashed 52 runs with the same number of balls. How ironic.
This was days after the Professor delivered a ‘lecture’ on the importance of strike rate in T20 cricket for batsmen. In what could have been a veiled dig at the likes of Babar Azam, Hafeez said: “If you can hit shots after making 50, why can’t you hit them after making 20? You have the same shot range. It means you’re playing for something else.”
It’s perhaps time to ask monsieur Hafeez what was he playing for during his 28-ball 28 that sucked the life out of Lahore innings and needed David Wiese’s last-over heroics.
Time definitely not up for one overseas star
And this brings us to Wiese. What an import he has been for Lahore Qalandars over the years. During the bad times and good, he has been a rock for the franchise, always giving his all both with the bat and ball. If Peshawar Zalmi have a special place for Darren Sammy, Wise must enjoy the same for Lahore.
On Friday, he twice saved Lahore, who were set for a mediocre total before Wiese swung his powerful bat with precision in the final over to plunder 27 runs. He was the main man in the final over of the other innings as well, giving away zero runs and taking two wickets before celebrating as passionately as we’ve ever seen him celebrate.
The man is a PSL legend and his name is now etched in the tournament’s history forever. Lahore should honour the man with presidential freedom or something.
Sunday's finale becomes a must-watch affair
The game sets us up for a blockbuster final this Sunday. The juggernaut of Multan Sultans is as powerful as any PSL side has ever been. But Lahore Qalandars will have the backing of their own fans and probably even of the neutral fans. After such a morale boosting win, they might also have the momentum on their side – if only marginally. They are also the only side to have bested Multan this season, although they have lost twice too.
There will be Shaheen vs Rizwan, Tahir vs Fakhar and several other such side battles to keep the fans excited. That said, if Sunday’s final is half the game Friday’s was, we are in for a treat.