The defending champions Multan Sultans saw their winning streak snapped in emphatic fashion by a relentless Lahore Qalandars at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday.
A 52-run victory for Shaheen Shah Afridi’s men, playing their first game in front of their home crowd, not only underlined the Qalandars’ HBL Pakistan Super League title credentials but also showed they have the most lethal bowling attack as they defended 182.
Sultans’ big-hitters Tim David and Rilee Rossouw were effectively neutralised. Their inspirational captain Mohammad Rizwan couldn’t find his strokes. The fluent Shan Masood never got going. In fact, no one got going for the Sultans as they were bundled out for 130.
Perhaps it was down to the fact that they were playing a second game in two days, having already sealed a spot in the play-offs courtesy their sixth straight victory of the campaign against Peshawar Zalmi on Thursday.
But nothing should be taken away from the way the Qalandars bowled, making run-scoring difficult and picking wickets at regular intervals.
Shan (8) was undone by a Shaheen off-cutter which was snapped up superbly by a leaping Abdullah Shafique at short cover.
Rizwan, who faced 27 deliveries to score 20, joined his fellow opener back in the dugout when Rashid Khan’s fizzing delivery found his leg-stump as he shuffled across to sweep.
From 58-1, the Sultans slipped to 58-3 when Rashid had Rossouw lbw for a duck on the very next delivery.
Sultans’ hopes rested on Sohaib Maqsood (29) and David (24) stitching up a decent partnership but they had added just 20 to the total when Sohaib sliced Haris Rauf to Zaman Khan.
Zaman well and truly ended the contest when he had David caught at long-on by Fakhar Zaman to make it 89-5.
Zaman and Fakhar combined again to see the end of Anwar Ali and although Khushdil Shah (22) hit a couple of sixes late on, it wasn’t Sultans’ night.
Abbas Afridi was run out, Haris brought the end of Khushdil, Shaheen cleaned up Blessing Muzarabani before Zaman finished things off when he had Imran Tahir caught by Harry Brook.
A day after setting Zalmi 183 to win, the same target proved too much for the Sultans as the Qalandars rode on Fakhar’s fourth half-century of the season in the first half of the game.
Having seen the back of opening partner Abdullah Shafique in the first over by Anwar, the in-form Fakhar (60) and Kamran Ghulam (42) combined to add 86 runs in the next 10 overs.
Fakhar, who also has a ton this season, cracked back-to-back boundaries off Muzarabani in the second over, sent Anwar to the ropes in the next over and then dispatched Shahnawaz Dahani twice to boundary line in front of a racous home crowd.
With the duo playing elegant strokes all around the wickets, the Qalandars reached the 50-run mark halfway through the sixth over with the powerplay yielding 56.
The Sultans squeezed the flow of runs in the next two overs before Kamran broke loose to hit two boundaries off Khushdil Shah and another off Shahnawaz Dahani before being caught at deep point off Abbas Afridi.
Fakhar, joined by Mohammad Hafeez, continued playing his strokes and hit two sixes off leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
But it was the seasoned South African who had the last laugh, inticing Fakhar for another lofted shot and getting him caught in the deep.
Fakhar though had set the platform for the Qalandars for a big total and they reached it thanks to a 60-run partnership between Hafeez (43) and Phil Salt (26 not out) in the last five overs.
Salt smashed Khushdil for two boundaries in the 16th over before Hafeez put Muzarabani away for another boundary in the 17th.
The fireworks began when Hafeez swiped Abbas for successive sixes off the last two balls of the 18th over before Muzarabani was hit for six each by Hafeez and Salt in the penultimate over.
Hafeez fell to Shahnawaz in the last over but the Qalandars had done enough. It proved in the end and the playoffs are now within touching distance for the Qalandars with a fourth win in six.