RAWALPINDI: If Lahore Qalandars’ thrashing of Islamabad United the first time these sides met this season read like an aberration, Qalandars gave them another one, just for good measure. In an imperious performance that consolidates their credentials as the favourites to retain this title, United were swept aside with disdain in Rawalpindi by 119 runs. It is the heaviest defeat inflicted on any side in PSL history.
Fakhar Zaman’s 115 in the first innings set them up for an imposing total – 226 is the Qalandars’ second-highest score. But after Quetta Gladiators chased down an even bigger score the previous night, a chase felt very realistic. This is where Qalandars’ bowlers shone, running riot through Islamabad’s storied batting line-up and skittling them out for 107. In the end, Fakhar’s individual score was higher than Islamabad’s collected final tally, another PSL first.
After 240 hadn’t proved enough for Peshawar Zalmi the previous night, Lahore’s decision to bat first was intrepid, but showed the faith they place in their bowlers, even on a surface like this. The start was wobbly, though, with Abdullah Shafique squeezed down leg in the first over. Crucially, Asif Ali dropped Fakhar Zaman when he was on one, and even as early as that in the game, it was a sliding doors moment.
After a tight couple of overs, Fakhar walloped Fazalhaq Farooqi for three boundaries, before plundering 16 in Faheem Ashraf’s first over. Despite Kamran Ghulam struggling for rhythm at the other end, he only needed to keep turning the strike over, and Fakhar was happy to do the damage. By the end of the powerplay, Lahore were up to 65.
But they knew they needed a huge score against a batting line-up like United’s, and they kept going. Fakhar took apart Shadab Khan in a seminal moment of the contest, while Ghulam came to life against Mubasir Khan. And Fakhar continued the onslaught against the United captain in a passage of play where 49 runs came off 14 balls, and the run rate ballooned.
United nailed the Qalandars down after Mohammad Wasim dismissed Ghulam, and briefly even threatened to keep the target around 200. But once Fakhar survived an extremely narrow lbw call – with HawkEye deeming a delivery crashing into the stumps to have pitched fractionally outside leg – he was rejuvenated once more.
Alongside Sam Billings, he smashed Wasim for 20 runs in the 16th over, and thereafter United’s death bowling fell apart. He brought up the hundred in that over, and in a blizzard of boundaries Lahore helped themselves to 72 in the final five.
The notion almost seems quaint now, but on a Pindi surface that has helped batters out to the extent it has this week, the game wasn’t over then. After seeing off Shaheen Afridi’s first over respectfully, the United machine began to whirr, taking 27 runs off the two following overs.
It was Zaman Khan who broke the game open for the Qalandars with the wicket of Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who he’d tormented through the over, before finally putting him out of his misery with a short ball. A full delivery shaping away drew the curtain on Colin Munro’s innings, and from thereon it was the Rashid Khan show.
Shadab Khan struck one six off him before the Afghan hit back, a top edge removing the United captain cheaply once more. The wickets were falling in clumps now; David Wiese soon got rid of Alex Hales as he miscued a slice right at the keeper.
Islamabad United’s own keeper, and middle order talisman Azam Khan, was unavailable following a finger injury he’d picked up in the first innings. In this kind of form, those are big shoes to fill, with the lower middle order hopelessly ill-equipped for the task against bowling of this quality.
That skill was crystallised in a glorious Rashid delivery to Mubasir Khan, drifting in around middle and whooshing past the outside edge to trim the outside of off stump. Faheem Ashraf was trapped dead in front, and by now an Islamabad mauling was inevitable. Rashid made it four wickets by cleaning up Asif Ali, and finishing with 4-21 on a surface every other batter had found to be a paradise.
Haris Rauf wrapped up the game with the final two wickets in a chastening evening at home for Islamabad to seal a top-two spot for his side. Both of these sides will go through to the playoffs, but on current evidence, the gap between them is a chasm.