LAHORE: Faisalabad Wolves made a sensational entry into the final of the third Faysal Bank Super Eight T20 Cup when in a dramatic turnaround they upstaged hot favourites Lahore Lions in the first semi-final by just two runs at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Saturday.
Watched by a capacity turnout, the Lions let themselves being tamed in front of their supporters by a side which was destined to head home at the halfway point of the game after mustering a modest 125-8 in their stipulated 20 overs after Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss.
But Misbah never gave up as he regrouped his troops time and again on the field to entice the opposition into pressing the panic button with shrewd bowling changes and field placements.
Young Pakistan fast bowler Ehsan Adil was entrusted with the task of bowling the final over of the match when the Lions needed nine runs with three wickets standing. After a nervy start with a four and two wides conceded, Ehsan bounced back superbly with the key scalp of Sohail Ahmed (19) on the fourth ball before two run outs killed off the Lions’ challenge for another T20 title this season as they subsided to 123 all out.
The star-studded Lions’ batting quite astonishingly fell apart after Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez had all but sewn up the game at 70-1 in the ninth over by their big partnership — yielding 57 in 37 balls — before the Pakistan Twenty20 skipper was outfoxed by Imran Khalid who gained sweet revenge after being twice lifted over the boundary for sixes.
Trying to slog sweep the slow left-armer, who chose to go round the wicket, Hafeez was caught plumbed in front of the stumps as he played across the line and missed the ball altogether. Hafeez’s 36 off 27 balls contained three boundaries and those two sixes.
The Akmal brothers, Umar and Kamran, yet again failed when both departed in the space of six deliveries. Umar was smartly stumped by Mohammad Salman off Imran for five, while Kamran fell to another outstanding Salman catch behind the stumps off Ehsan, who was declared the Man-of-the-Match for taking three for 23 in four overs.
Salman earlier had set the tone with a similar one-handed take to remove the dangerous Ahmed Shehzad in the second over. But he was guilty of dropping a far easier chance when Hafeez nicked the first ball he faced from Asad Ali. But the former Test wicket-keeper played a huge role in the Wolves; success with three catches, one stumping and two run outs.
The defining moment for the Wolves came when Nasir, who continued his good form with 46 from 39 balls with the aid of seven boundaries, got himself run out to leave his team struggling at 99-6 in the 16th over. The Lions’ last eight wickets went down for 38 runs in 56 balls.
Earlier, the Wolves also stuttered in their innings after reaching 74-2 in the 12th over. Misbah’s prized wicket was bagged by off-spinner Adnan Rasool who forced the Pakistan Test and one-day captain offering a simple catch to midwicket where Wahab Riaz was stationed.
Khurram Shehzad’s 27 off 30 with four boundaries and Imran Khalid’s unbeaten 20 (15 balls, one six and one four) were the only scores of note in the Wolves’ innings. Misbah made 19 as did Asif Ali while opener Farrukh Shehzad scored 18.
Adnan finished with two for 27 and Hafeez’s four overs fetched three wickets for 30 runs.
The Wolves’ opponents in Sunday’s final were being decided at the time of filing this report as Sialkot Stallions and Rawalpindi Rams were engaged in the other semi-final.