After a horrific start to their HBL Pakistan Super League season, all Quetta Gladiators would be wishing for was a sniff. They did get more than just that here on a damp night at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday, only for hosts Lahore Qalandars to snatch the match out of their jaws to take it by 17 runs.
The result meant the Qalandars consolidated their position at the top of the standings with five wins in six matches while the Gladiators found themselves under the weight of their misery at the bottom of the points table with just one victory in six games.
After Sikandar Raza pulled the Qalandars out of deep trouble with a blistering show with the bat to give the Gladiators a fighting target of 149 to chase, the Lahore bowlers triggered a collapse for Sarfraz Ahmed and co after openers Will Smeed and Yasir Khan had given them a decent start.
Smeed punished Shaheen Shah Afridi for pitching one in the slot outside off-stump twice, driving him through the covers for consecutive fours in the first over. Yasir got his first boundary with a top edge off Haris Rauf before Smeed added four more.
The openers were comfortable against the Qalandars’ pacers before Yasir was caught behind off Haris on the final ball of the sixth over, with 53-1 on the board for the Gladiators by the end of the powerplay.
The visitors couldn’t find their way back after that, and their collapse started when Rashid Khan trapped Smeed lbw in the seventh over. After Quetta went two overs without a boundary, Mohammad Hafeez was run out by David Wiese.
Rashid returned to spin one sharply past Iftikhar Ahmed to force an edge of the right-hander’s bat in the 11th over before Martin Guptill found Abdullah Shafique at the cow-corner boundary off Wiese.
The next to depart was Odean Smith, who got a top edge off Haris for wicket-keeper Sam Billings to take an easy catch. With the Quetta outfit further cramped up for runs, Haris sent Mohammad Nawaz’s stumps flickering in the penultimate over.
The Gladiators required 25 in the last over, but pacer Zaman Khan restricted them with ease despite conceding one six as Sarfraz walked back after a causeless run-a-ball 28-ball 27.
With the pitch offering bounce and movement to the fast bowlers, Qalandars had a poor start with the bat. They were reeling at 50-7 at one point — after the Gladiators pacers had run through their batting line-up — before Raza’s counterattacking knock of 71 off 34 balls boosted them to a fighting total.
The Zimbabwean batter was ably supported by Rashid’s contribution of a 20-ball 21. The duo put up a 69-run partnership off just 39 balls for the eighth wicket.
The Gladiators went into the match with three changes, which saw veteran pacer Umaid Asif and Afghan quick Naveen-ul-Haq make it to the side for the first time this season.
Umaid’s first contribution, however, came from the field when his throw from mid-on ran out Lahore dangerman Fakhar Zaman. The 38-year-old then went on to dismiss Fakhar’s opening partner Tahir Baig.
Naveen struck in the next over to get Sam Billings to leave Qalandars in deep trouble at 16-3. The right-armer then squared Hussain Talat to clean the southpaw up.
Shaheen promoted himself up the order — apparently as a low-value wicket — and his decision seemed impactful when he drove medium-pacer Smith through the offside for a boundary before getting another with a sweep off Mohammad Nawaz’s spin.
After Abdullah played Nawaz onto his stumps, Shaheen ran himself out in the ninth over before Wiese was caught by Nawaz off his own bowling.
Raza started off his onslaught with a heave to clear the midwicket boundary off Nawaz in the 12th over before scooping Umaid behind for another maximum in the next, which also saw Rashid take on the veteran pacer for another six and a boundary.
Raza found three more boundaries off Naveen before Rashid holed Smith out to Iftikhar in the deep in the 16th over. The right-hander brought up his half-century in 22 balls with a four off Naseem Shah in the 17th over before the pacer dismissed Haris.
The Gladiators missed a golden chance to run Raza out at the bowling end in the penultimate over and rued their mistake when he smashed Naveen through the covers for two consecutive boundaries and got a six off Umaid in the final over.