If Lahore Qalandars’ thrashing against Islamabad United, the first time these sides met this season, was read as an aberration, Qalandars gave them another, just for the record. In an imperious performance that consolidates their credentials as the favorites to retain this title, United were swept aside in Rawalpindi with 119 points in disdain. It is the heaviest defeat inflicted on any side in PSL history.
After 240 had not proved enough for Peshawar Zalmi the previous night, Lahore’s decision to bat first was undeterred but showed the confidence they place in their bowlers, even on a surface like this. The start was shaky though, with Abdullah Shafique squeezing down his leg in the first. Crucially, Asif Ali dropped Fakhar Zaman when he was on one, and even early in the game it was a sliding door moment.
After a couple of tight overs, Fakhar Fazalhaq batted Farooqi for three boundaries, before plundering 16 in Faheem Ashraf’s first over. Despite Kamran Ghulam on the other side struggling for rhythm, all he had to do was turn the blow, and Fakhar was happy to do the damage. By the end of the power play, Lahore was 65.
But they knew they needed a huge score against a batting line-up like United’s, and they pressed on. Fakhar took Shadab Khan apart in a landmark moment of the match, while Ghulam came alive against Mubasir Khan. And Fakhar continued the attack on the United captain in a game passage where 49 runs came off 14 balls and the number of runs soared.
The idea almost seems odd now, but on a Pindi surface that has helped hitters so much this week, the game wasn’t over then. After respectfully knocking off Shaheen Afridi’s first over, the United machine began to roar and took 27 runs from the next two overs.
Shadab Khan knocked a six off him before the Afghan hit back, a top edge that the United captain again cheaply removed. The wickets now fell in bunches; David Wiese quickly knocked out Alex Hales when he misplayed a shot straight at the keeper. Islamabad United’s own goalkeeper, and middle talisman Azam Khan, was unavailable after a finger injury suffered in the first innings. In this sort of form those are big shoes to fill with the lower middle class being woefully ill-equipped for the task against bowling of this quality.
That skill manifested itself in a glorious Rashid delivery to Mubasir Khan, drifting in around the center and whizzing around the perimeter to trim the outside of the stump. Faheem Ashraf was dead in the front of the trap, and by now a mauling in Islamabad was inevitable. Rashid made it four wickets clearing Asif Ali to finish 4-21 on a surface that every other batsman had found paradise.
Haris Rauf closed the match with the last two wickets in a cathartic evening at home for Islamabad to secure a top-two spot for his side. Both sides will advance to the playoffs, but according to current data, the gap between them is a gap.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000