After dismissing the reigning champions for 76 runs, Sultans marched to the PSL final for the third consecutive year
Last week, Lahore Qalandars head coach Aqib Javed spoke with reporters about how other PSL teams prioritized power hitters but the Qalandars wanted to go for the finest bowlers.
When Kieron Pollard and Tim David battled hard against an impressive bowling performance from the Qalandars to post 160 today, Multan Sultans showed them the importance of power hitters later in the order.
Sheldon Cottrell bowled away the top order as the Qalandars disintegrated for 76, and the Sultans then set about systematically destroying the batting order of the reigning champions.
As the first side to accomplish so, it guarantees Sultans’ spot in the PSL championship game for a third straight season. Qalandars, meanwhile, are reduced to Friday’s elimination game to maintain their title defense
The most difficult challenge in the PSL has turned into chasing a total down against the bowling lineup of the Qalandars, and the Sultans were wise enough to be creative. For the first time this year and just the sixth time in club history, they won the toss and chose to bat first. But they often choose these opportunities well; in the previous four, they had won three of them.
The Qalandars were at their dominating best with the ball in the opening 15 overs of the first innings, restricting the Sultans, making that victory appear far from certain.
This season, the average first innings score here was 193, but it became clear rather quickly that the Sultans wouldn’t get even close to that.
They only scored 46 runs during the powerplay, and even though the Qalandars had not taken any wickets, it didn’t seem as though they were in need of doing so..
Haris Rauf delivered the opening punch at his terrifying quickest, but the ball he used to take down Usman Khan was a slower one. Rilee Rossouw was difficult to get rid of, but Zaman Khan did it easily.
This was a crucial wicket, especially given Rossouw’s dominating history against the Qalandars. The Sultans were down to 90 for three after Rashid Khan forced Mohammad Rizwan to leave with a wrong’un, and the Qalandars simply tightened their hold on the match.
Yet it wasn’t without its chances, Pollard’s brilliant lower order counterattack helped his side escape a crisis. Shaheen Afridi and Hussain Talat missed opportunities to get rid of the skier, who was dropped by Sam Billings very early in the assault. The Sultans total was raised to a defendable level while he was working his way through the gears.
This was never more obvious than when Shaheen was hit for three sixes by him in the final over, which was also the Qalandars captain’s most expensive PSL over due to the 20 runs he was forced to concede. A 33-ball 50 for Pollard also resulted, giving him Player-of-the-Match honors.
Haris responded with a brilliant final six balls, routinely reaching speeds above 150, and dismissing both Pollard and Khushdil Shah. Despite only six runs being scored, it helped the Qalandars gain some momentum and handed the burden over to the hitters.
But Cottrell, who had just joined the PSL, ripped the game out of the hands of the Qalandars before they had a chance to start the chase. Mirza Baig and Abdullah Shafique were both out after his second over’s double strike, which made fantastic use of the right-handers’ inswing.
At the other end, Anwar Ali bowled a magnificent delivery to knock back the top of Fakhar Zaman’s off stump. Cottrell continued the ambush after the ambush was ended, coming back to dismiss Shaheen with a wayward swing off the second ball he faced, finding Usman Khan at cover.
A shell-shocked Qalandars was about to endure yet another trauma. Pollard, who was their primary batter of choice, lost two wickets in his first over, first getting Talat out with a careless running catch and then ending Sikandar Raza’s innings with a superb running catch from Abbas Afridi.
The eliminator on Friday was already on Qalandars’ mind. A couple hearty smashes from David Wiese and Rauf gave a loud, passionate home crowd something to cheer for before Billings and Rashid fell in short succession. But it was short-lived as Abbas Afridi struck the powerful blow as Haris fluffed a ball to the goalkeeper.
This exact opposition destroyed Sultans in the PSL championship game the year before. They made a significant advancement today that may mean they won’t even need to see them again at that stage.