The struggling Lahore Qalandars team, yet to register their first win, took on the unbeaten Quetta Gladiators who had brushed aside every other team in the league through some great performances. Mohammad Nawaz has been a revelation with the ball, while Luke Wright, Kevin Pietersen, and Ahmad Shehzad have all contributed with the bat. The Gladiators had also been really fortunate with the toss in the entire tournament so far. Their luck continued as they won the toss and chose to field once again. Chris Gayle was rested by Lahore and Cameron Delport came on to open the innings instead, along with skipper Azhar Ali. Qalandars had never made it through the first over without losing a wicket in their previous matches, but Azhar Ali had different ideas this time around as he came down the ground and dispatched Anwar Ali for a six in the first over. Delport started hitting boundaries soon after and both batsmen looked to be in great form. The way Delport targeted Nawaz, the highest wicket-taker of the tournament so far, was especially impressive, as he played some innovative strokes and was never afraid to come down the track to ensure his dominance.
Azhar Ali departed in the 10th over off Umar Gul as the opening pair put 62 runs on the board. Umar Akmal came out next, as the platform was set for Qalandars to finally get a big score. Delport continued to get under the bowlers’ skin with some fine hitting as he raced to his half-century in only 42 deliveries, while Akmal also joined in on the party and took Umar Gul to the cleaners as he dealt only in boundaries. Qalandars kept accelerating their run rate as the innings progressed, and there was no stopping Umar Akmal as he raced to his 50 in only 22 balls. Both these batsmen were absolutely bossing the Gladiators as Qalandars were easily set for the highest total of the tournament so far. The pair broke the record for the highest partnership of the HBL PSL as they added 95 runs from only 43 balls before Delport was caught leg before off Zulfiqar Babar in the 17th over. Umar Akmal went ballistic, however, as he played the innings of the tournament which included ferocious shots all over the park. We had never seen him bat like this before, as he blasted a breathtaking 93 from 40 balls! Qalandars had set a mammoth total of 195/3 in their 20 overs, which was never going to be easy for any side to chase down.
Luke Wright and Ahmad Shehzad opened the innings for Quetta Gladiators. Needing nearly 10 runs per over, it was always going to be a daunting task. Luke Wright got lucky early on in the innings, as Zafar Gohar almost held a catch off his own bowling but fumbled it as he looked to celebrate a little too early! Shehzad hit Kevon Cooper for consecutive boundaries in the 3rd over, before dragging the ball onto his stumps on the very next delivery. Wright was dismissed three balls later off Gohar, as he was caught at deep mid-wicket by Cooper. At 27/2 after 4 overs, Gladiators were already in dire straits. Pietersen hit a few big shots and there was still some hope for the Gladiators as long as he was out there, but his stay on the crease was short-lived as he was also sent packing by Dwayne Bravo. The match seemed to be a foregone conclusion only 6 overs into Quetta’s innings, with three of their best batsmen already in the pavilion, while chasing a monumental total.
Quetta’s skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, along with Mohammad Nawaz on the crease, tried to get a partnership going and played a few shots as the required rate climbed to 12 runs per over. Nawaz targeted Hammad Azam and put him away for 20 runs in the 10th over as the Gladiators began to pick up some momentum. With nine overs remaining Quetta needed 98 runs with seven wickets in hand. Sarfraz and Nawaz turned the crowd on its head with some beautiful stroke play and we suddenly had a match on our hands. Zohaib Khan put the Qalandars back in control as he claimed the much-coveted wicket of Sarfraz in the 13th over. Mendis got rid of Nawaz soon after and Qalandars had their first victory in the bag. It was smooth sailing from then on for Lahore, as Quetta’s tail end collapsed and they were all out for 131, with Zafar Gohar picking up 4 wickets for 14. Qalandars sealed a comprehensive win against the best team of the tournament so far, with Umar Akmal playing an unforgettable inning which will be remembered for a long time.