Razzaq, bowlers take Sialkot to title
Sialkot Stallions 110 for 5 (Naved 27, Razzaq 24) beat Faisalabad Wolves 109 for 9 (Hafeez 27, Razzaq 2-37, Rehman 2-17) by five wickets
Sialkot Stallions confirmed their status as the pre-eminent Twenty20 side in the land, beating Faisalabad Wolves at a packed National Stadium in Karachi to lift their fifth consecutive RBS Twenty20 Cup.
A raucous 30,000-plus crowd - thousands of fans were left outside the stadium trying to get in and roads leading up to the stadium were choked full - turned up to watch what should have been a tense encounter between the two best sides in the country, but once Sialkot's opening bowlers had crippled Faisalabad's start, the result was never in doubt, the defending champions ultimately cruising to a five-wicket win.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Faisalabad's troubles began early, the in-form and ever-dangerous Asif Hussain inside edging Asif onto his stumps. That set the tone for an exemplary spell from Asif, honing in on a typically difficult length and getting the usual cut. He was unlucky not to get at least one more wicket, eventually conceding only nine runs in his four overs.
The pressure paid off at the other end, Mohammad Salman and Ali Waqas falling in quick succession to Abdul Razzaq, both to poor shots; Waqas had been lucky to survive that far, given not out for a clear edge off Asif. Nineteen for 3 after four overs meant Faisalabad were desperately looking towards man of the moment Mohammad Hafeez to come through.
Hafeez had been outstanding in the semi-final with the tournament's first hundred and looked set for another big hand when lofting two big sixes over the on side off a Razzaq over. But just when things were looking up, misfortune struck. Khurram Shehzad patted a stroke back to Abdur Rehman, who had just come on to bowl. Smartly Rehman turned the ball back on to the non-striker's stumps, with Hafeez, backing up, well short.
That turned the innings and Rehman trapped Shehzad off the last ball of the same over with a lovely arm ball. The arm ball struck again in his next over, Zeeshan Butt sent back this time, caught brilliantly by Shoaib Malik at cover diving to his left.
At 56 for 6, Sialkot were right on top and the fall of wickets suffocated the opposition - they managed only one boundary in the next four overs. Misbah-ul-Haq tried to steer his side to some kind of total and with Shahid Nazir at least ensured they didn't lose more wickets. But he fell eventually, trying to cut loose and holing out to deep midwicket off Sarfraz Ahmed for 27. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan uprooted Mohammad Talha's middle stump with a yorker in the final over as Faisalabad ended with an unsatisfactory 109. That they didn't get bowled out was the only saving grace.
Imran Nazir began the chase like he wanted to finish it off in five overs, hitting a four and a six off the first two balls. But as is often the way with him, the cameo was shorter than it was sweet and he was back in the pavilion after the third ball, spooning it straight to cover.
Mansoor Amjad fell the next over to spark a little hope in Faisalabad, but Rana, fresh from a near-hundred at one down, pinch-hit his way to 27 with five fours and a six. Even when Malik fell to leave Sialkot 56 for four, the result wasn't really in doubt, so strong is their line-up. Razzaq, who joined them this season after snubbing his home team Lahore, continued his contributions, smacking four consecutive fours off Talha to hasten the victory march.
The only blip came by way of some crowd trouble in the 15th over when Hafeez threatened to take his team off the field after some bottles were thrown from a boisterous crowd. He didn't go off and soon after, Adeel Malik, Shoaib's younger brother, sealed the deal with a succession of boundaries to maintain Sialkot's supremacy in this format. With the team that they have, the PCB may well rue their decision to not allow a local team to represent Pakistan in the Champions League.