Blistering Nazir century conquers title for Lahore
It was complete annihilation. Lahore Badshahs gained retribution for last season's defeat and Saturday's controversy by drubbing Hyderabad Heroes in style to lift the trophy. Hyderabad were restricted to 158 and Imran Nazir sizzled with a 44-ball 111 to end the chase in a blink.
The cheerleaders, who were supposed to dance after each boundary, were severely tested by Nazir's fury and could not match him in the end. When their dancing stopped, Lahore's players celebrated their triumph.
Faced with the same target on Saturday night, Lahore were strangely subdued at the start and were always behind the eight-ball. Not tonight. Nazir indulged himself, Imran Farhat watched, and the crowd roared as the white ball kept sailing into the sky. He didn't wait a ball to launch his assault. The first one, sent down by Abdul Razzaq, disappeared over extra-cover boundary for a six, the fifth flashed over long-off and the sixth screamed over deep midwicket. Twenty-four runs had come in the first over, Razzaq disappeared from the attack and Nazir went from strength to strength.
Hyderabad tried spin as early as the third over but it didn't matter a jot. Nazir didn't let any thing affect his style of play. He didn't mind the injury that forced him to get a runner, nor the dropped catch by Nicky Boje at long-on when he was on 58. He simply carried on walloping. He brought up the hundred with a fierce heave over long-on but by then Hyderabad had long surrendered.
Nothing went right for Hyderabad from the beginning. They recycled their first two finals' script: start well, slow down in the middle and disintegrate at the end to finish on a par score. To be fair they did try some thing different; they promoted Anirudh Singh to No. 3 and sent the in-form Boje ahead of Justin Kemp, who didn't find his mojo in this tournament with the bat, but they couldn't sizzle. Only opener Ibrahim Khaleel sparkled tonight. He started off with two streaky fours off Mohammad Sami before using the long handle effectively against all bowlers. He repeatedly backed away to free his arms. He smoked a back-of-length delivery from Shahid Nazir over the midwicket boundary for his shot of the night. But it was not a patch on Nazir's scorching effort.
It has been an interesting ride for Lahore. Winless after the first two games, the poker-faced Inzamam-ul-Haq was asked by the press, "Inzy bhai, you have lost both the games." Inzamam fixed his eye on the questioner and with a dead-panned look said, "I know." Nervous silence paved way for laughter in the room and ever so slowly Inzamam smiled. He hasn't stopped since then, though it has been punctuated with streak of anger. A streak of five wins in a row was halted in the second final that saw some controversy but regular programming continued tonight. And what a fun show it was.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo