Bopara’s half-century, Mahmood’s double-strike in vain for Peshawar Zalmi
Lahore Qalandars 143 for 6 (Hafeez 33*, Rashid 27*, Mahmood 2-22) beat Peshawar Zalmi 140 for 6 (Bopara 50, Butt 23*, Shaheen Afridi 3-14) by four wickets
Shaheen Afridi started it, Rashid Khan did his thing in the middle with the ball, and then came back with the bat as Lahore Qalandars sealed a four-wicket win against Peshawar Zalmi that was nervy in parts, but impressive nonetheless.
Afridi had begun by nailing his yorkers, mixing them up with some well-directed short ones, and not giving batsmen room to work with. Some of them might have felt like space to breathe was at a premium too, with having to negotiate the left-arm quick’s accurate hostility. Khan, playing his first Pakistan Super League match, then dived into the game with the ease of the veteran that he is in T20 cricket, giving up only 14 runs in four overs before starring with the bat too. The Afridi-Khan duo had played the lead role in keeping Zalmi to 140 for 6, but Qalandars were wobbly in their chase. When Khan walked in, he was facing a hat-trick ball with his team 109 for 6, needing 32 from 26 balls. He coolly hit 27 not out off 15 balls to turn a skittish chase into a canter.
Qalandars, the finalists in the last edition, began on a terrific note, with Afridi getting Imam-ul-Haq caught behind first ball. That set the tone for a rickety powerplay, which yielded 36 for 3 for Zalmi.
While Afridi had only a two-over burst at the top of the innings, the Zalmi batsmen had to deal with Khan after the powerplay. Their only substantial partnership was for the fifth wicket between Ravi Bopara and Sherfane Rutherford, but the 64-run stand took 56 balls, partly due to the rush of early wickets. The stabilising did give a platform for a late launch, but against Afridi at the death, that wasn’t going to be easy. A 16-run final over meant they touched 140, but they would need exceptional bowling more or less through their defence to achieve victory.
They did have their moments, Saqib Mahmood, in particular, was devastating in his second spell while Wahab Riaz reverse-swung out Ben Dunk, but in between the brilliance there were enough pressure-releasing deliveries too. Mahmood had sent back Samit Patel and David Wiese in his final over, leaving a tricky 32 to get with Mohammad Hafeez the only recognised batsman for the Qalandars. However, an over later, Riaz began with a no-ball for height that was hit to the boundary and sprayed the ball around in a 14-run over that meant Zalmi’s final comeback in the match was done.
Star of the day
Khan didn’t concede more than a single in his entire quota of four overs, and though he didn’t pick up a wicket, giving up only 14 runs in four overs was as valuable as his batting cameo.
Khan was into his bowling rhythm from the first ball. The Zalmi batsmen were intent on playing him with more caution due to the wickets already lost, true, but he still gave them nothing. Rutherford often had to read him off the pitch, while Bopara was also very watchful.
The bowling performance was stellar, but Khan’s batting came to the fore too, and at a moment where his team particularly needed it to. There was no hint of nerves when facing Mahmood, who was reversing the ball, and clinical execution when Wahab erred in length.
Miss of the day
There wasn’t too much the Zalmi batsmen could have done with two top T20 bowlers bringing their A games and conceding 28 runs off their combined eight overs, so they needed to make that up with a similar bowling show. The chase was delicately poised with Khan yet to hit a boundary and the equation reading 26 off 19, when the bowling lost its discipline. Mohammad Imran, who had an otherwise impressive debut, bowled a half-tracker off his final ball that Hafeez dispatched for four. Then came the Riaz over that swung the game decisively away from Zalmi, a full-toss above waist height first ball followed by lengths going all over the place for the rest of the over.
Afridi was irresistible whenever he came on to bowl. He was given only a two-over opening spell, but he took 1 for 4 in that, with half the runs coming via a couple of wides.
He returned to bowl the 17th and 19th overs, and took out both men who had spent time at the crease in Rutherford and Bopara. The best ball he bowled didn’t even get a wicket, a searing toe-crusher that swung in viciously to Rutherford and had him overbalancing without connecting with the ball. The keeper couldn’t hold on either and it went for four byes. Afridi got Rutherford with the very next ball.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo