Recent Match Report – Zalmi vs Qalandars Eliminator 2 2022/23

Lahore Qalandars 176 for 6 (Baig 54, Billings 28, Omarzai 2-31) Peshawar Zalmi 171 for 5 (Haris 85, Babar 42, Zaman 2-20) with four wickets

In the first four years of the PSL, the Lahore Qalandars side would have been on holiday at this stage of the competition, or at home in front of the television. But those dark days are now a distant memory, with the defending champions passing a valiant four-wicket challenge from Peshawar Zalmi to secure their spot in their third final in four years.

It was truly a collective team effort, with a clinical bowling performance that held Zalmi to 171 despite a blistering 54-ball 85 from Mohammad Haris. The chase, too, was courtesy of several high- and mid-order cameos, all strung together around half a century by Mirza Baig. Zalmi dragged the Qalandars to the last two overs, but in reality Shaheen’s men were always one step ahead.

Zalmi chose to bat at the toss, fully aware that the Qalandars had yet to win the chase this season, and that no chasing side had yet triumphed at Gaddafi Stadium this year. Saim Ayub was cleared early by Zaman Khan, but Babar Azam and Haris formed an impressive partnership to create a platform. Haris was again in excellent attacking form, a six and a four from the first three balls he received from Shaheen (a letter of intent). Babar joined in from the other side and by the end of the power play, Zalmi had put up 54, ready to go bigger.

However, Babar failed to take the next step up and his success rate stopped. Haris Rauf was hard to get away in the middle overs, but Haris beat Rashid Khan for 14 in his first over to keep Qalandars under pressure. Even Babar went after Rashid with some boundaries to kick off his second. But Rashid hit back, taking two wickets in his third, breaking the stand with Babar’s wicket and removing Tom Kohler-Cadmore for a duck. And as Haris continued to bat and plunder another 13 from Rashid’s last left, the runs dried up from the other side.

Shaheen had stopped Haris at death three times and Zalmi found it difficult to get away. David Wiese’s variations in pace also proved difficult to attack, while, crucially, Shaheen stripped Haris off the last ball of his spell. The young Zalmi batsman had kept his batting rate high, but as he took off to 85, Zalmi’s momentum ebbed. Half way through, Haris said the 171 they had posted was way above par, but the Qalandars were not fooled.

Baig got the Qalandars up and running with a six in the first over, but Zalmi had a huge break right away. Fakhar Zaman swung and missed when Azmatullah Omarzai hit the center stump, and rookie all-rounder Azmat Hafeez took off shortly after a light-hearted 15. Abdullah Shafique was also in the fold for only a short time, contributing to a 31-point tie with Baig for a mix up walked out on him.

But these regular breakthroughs would have given Zalmi a false sense of security. The Qalandars didn’t have a big individual goalscorer a la Haris, or one big stand like the Babar-Haris partnership, but these small cameos and gritty partnerships stealthily secured victory. Sam Billings and Baig put 50 in 28 balls to ensure the run rate was no longer an issue before Baig hit one through Aamer Jamal, but the match situation was set up perfectly for finishers like Billings and Sikandar Raza.

They wouldn’t be there to the end, but they came close enough. There was a 28-run partnership and a 28-ball 21 for Billings complemented by 23 off 14 from Raza. Both had knocked back their stumps while the Qalandars were still a trickle of a run, but the dam Zalmi had set up to defend their total had finally burst.

The final blow was delivered, in style, by the boastful young captain of the Qalandars, a midfield punch followed by a lofty straight drive for six by Shaheen Afridi to seal the win. He held that Adonis-esque pose to exaggerated effect as the Qalandars booked their spot in the final, a repeat of last year’s trophy match between the defending champions and Multan Sultans. He gets to hold the trophy one more time.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000


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