Shaheen Shah Afridi is one of the best young pacers going around and he showed his class at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday (February 21), with the left-arm fast bowler’s three wickets playing a massive role in Lahore Qalandars securing a four-wicket win against Peshawar Zalmi.
After Lahore put Peshawar into bat, it took no time for Afridi to get his maiden wicket of the season as he dismissed Imam-ul-Haq with the first delivery of the match. It was a poor shot from Imam, throwing his bat at an out-swinging delivery. The left-handed opener only managed to get an outside edge and was caught behind by Ben Dunk.
There were no runs scored off the bat in the first nine deliveries before Shoaib Malik struck two successive boundaries off Salman Mirza. It seemed like the Zalmi batsmen had decided to take on Salman, but it was the left-arm pacer who would have his say soon as he got the wicket of Kamran Akmal, who was caught on the square leg boundary while attempting a big shot. Just two deliveries later, Salman would strike again, this time dismissing Haider Ali for a first-ball duck.
After losing three wickets in the Powerplay, Zalmi were always playing catch up and it proved difficult for them to get a move on. Malik had got off to a start and the team from Peshawar would have been hopeful that’s he’d go on and make a big contribution, but that wasn't to be the case. David Wiese, bowling in his first over, got the former Pakistan captain's wicket.
Rashid Khan was his usual self and was incredibly economical in the middle overs. In his four overs, he conceded only 14 runs which made it difficult for the Zalmi batsmen to up the scoring rate.
Ravi Bopara and Sherfane Rutherford's 64-run partnership for the fifth wicket did help Zalmi stage a bit of a fightback. The former came into the tournament after some fine displays in T10 cricket and he was especially impressive, notching up a half-century.
In an attempt to up the scoring rate, Rutherford mistimed a slower delivery and was caught at the long-on boundary in the 17th over. It was Afridi with the wicket - his second of the innings. While 26 from 27 deliveries might seem underwhelming, Rutherford played an important role in getting Peshawar back on track after they had lost their top four with less than 50 runs on the board.
A fine cameo from Amad Butt (23* from 11 deliveries) helped Zalmi get to 140/6, with 16 runs coming off the final over. But despite that, the 2017 PSL champions would have been disappointed to have managed such a total in their 20 overs.
For Lahore, Afridi was superb, ending the innings with bowling figures of 3/14 in his four overs. He would later be named the Player of the Match.
The Qalandars might not have been chasing a huge target, but they didn’t get off to the best of starts with the bat, losing both their openers in the first six overs.
While Sohail Akhtar was first dismissed for a run-a-ball 14 by Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fakhar Zaman had to head back to the pavillion off the final delivery of the Powerplay. Going for a big shot against Wahab Riaz, Zaman only managed to sky the ball with Malik completing a difficult catch.
Agha Salman was batting well but couldn't kick on after getting a start as he was bowled by Butt for 21. With Zalmi desperately needing wickets, captain Wahab brought himself back into the bowling attack and he bowled a stunning yorker to get the wicket of Dunk, who had also got a start.
Despite losing wickets regularly, the Qalandars were in control as the experienced Mohammad Hafeez ensured that there wasn't a batting collapse. Hafeez was in good form in the T20I series against New Zealand a couple of months ago and he did well here to put Lahore in the driver's seat.
But while the Qalandars were in front for most of their run-chase, they had to endure some nervous moments when Saqib Mahmood took two wickets – Samit Patel and Wiese – from as many deliveries in the 16th over. The England pacer conceded just one run in that over which gave Zalmi hope.
With three overs left, the Qalandars needed only 22 runs to win but had lost six wickets which was a bit of a concern for them. All pressure was released, though, when Wahab began the 18th over with a full-toss no-ball, with Rashid also managing to find the boundary. From thereon, it was a cakewalk for the team from Lahore.
It was Hafeez's excellent unbeaten 33 that kept the innings together for the Qalandars, while Rashid provided the finishing touch with a rapid 27*.