A must-win pressure-cooker contest for a team, an improbable equation from the outset, then a lost toss, a batting collapse, a seriously underwhelming total of 124, followed by an even more challenging task – to hold the opposition to 78. For most, it would have been a lost cause. But when it’s a team from Pakistan, one almost expects a miracle every single time.
Lahore Lions employed Test-match fields from the first over, their spinners created panic in the Perth Scorchers ranks, their fielders gobbled away all the chances, the wicketkeeper affected a stumping, there were appeals that were given, there were ones that were not given too. For 13 overs, the hopes of Lions’ progression to semis remained strong as Scorchers were reduced to 64 for 7, until Brad Hogg drove, cut and hoicked 15 runs in the 14th over, bowled by Adnan Rasool, to shut the doors on Lions and let Chennai Super Kings through to the knockouts. The result – Scorchers winning by three wickets – was only of academic interest.
Lions had been in such a situation in the qualification stage of the tournament too. Faced with a must-win task, they bowled out Southern Express for 109 to register a heavy 55-run win. But their batting this evening, and the Robert Frylinck assault in their previous game that ate away on their net run rate, left them too big a task at hand.
Still, Mohammed Hafeez shrugged away the shadow of suspect-action sleuths and provided the ideal start, nipping out the wicket of opener Craig Simmons in the first over, getting him caught bat-pad at short leg. Replays showed the ball had missed the edge though. There was an inside edge off the very next ball, and the catch was taken at short leg, but unfortunately for Hafeez, the umpire Rod Tucker missed it completely.
The first over set the tone for Lions’ fightback as their spinners made regular strikes, with Mustafa Iqbal picking up two wickets in the fifth over. By the ninth over, Scorchers were reduced to 40 for 6 but Mitchell Marsh, the stand-in skipper, maintained an aggressive stance against the spinners and fast bowlers alike. Once Scorchers crossed the figure of 78, the 125-run target was achieved with relative ease.
Even that target had appeared improbable after the start Lions had to their innings. Joel Paris removed Nasir Jamshed and Umar Siddiq in the first over, then Marsh picked the big wicket of Hafeez in the second. Wahab Riaz, promoted up the order, did not make a dent to the score, departing in the fourth over for a duck. From 11 for 4, Lions were revived by two stands of 43 and 48, with Saad Nasim, unbeaten on 69, playing a part in both. However, the hopes of a strong total had ended with Umar Akmal’s departure with the score on 54.