Lahore Qalandars 191 for 1 (Lynn 113*, Zaman 57) beat Multan Sultans 186 for 6 (Khushdil 70*, Masood 42, Afridi 2-23) by nine wickets
How the game played out
The dynamic opening duo of Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn terrorised a second-string Multan Sultans bowling unit, pummeling 72 runs in the powerplay during a 100-run partnership to mow down a target of 187 as Lahore Qalandars clinched their first-ever playoff berth in the fifth season of the Pakistan Super League with a nine-wicket win. A blazing half-century by Zaman was followed by Lynn's match-clinching ton, the first-ever by a Qalandars batsman in their five-year history in the tournament.
Qalandars were off to a shaky start again early in the tournament this season after losing their first three matches but a stunning resurgence propelled in their fourth match by the ferocious hitting of Ben Dunk dug them out of the cellar. The pyrotechnics of Zaman and Lynn in their season finale against Sultans ensured Dunk's prior efforts were not in vain. Bouncing back from a 10-wicket drubbing at the hands of Karachi Kings on Thursday, Zaman and Lynn seized on the fact that Sultans could afford to rest several of their frontline bowlers after having clinched first place outright 48 hours earlier.
Zaman led the initial onslaught, bringing up a 25-ball half-century during a brutal seventh over assault on Moeen Ali's offspin. After Zaman was stumped following a charge gone awry to Usman Qadir's legspin in the 9th, Lynn took centrestage with more belligerent hitting.
The Australian brought up a 22-ball half-century in the 10th over swatting Ravi Bopara over cow corner for six. The maximum barrage continued against Khushdil Shah in the 14th, who was carted for back-to-back straight sixes to take Lynn into the 80s. Another heave over cow corner off Bilawal Bhatti took him to 98 before a pair of singles off Junaid Khan brought up the first century by a Qalandars batsman in their five-year history. Lynn then ended the match by heaving Ali Shafiq twice over the leg side rope in the 19th to seal his side's maiden playoff appearance with seven balls to spare.
Momentum was with Sultans after a sloppy bowling display in the latter half of the first innings allowed Khushdil to feast his way to an unbeaten 70 off 29 balls. But Zaman and Lynn stole it right back with their thunderous powerplay. A consistent short ball plan to Zaman failed repeatedly as he hooked and pulled for boundaries at will.
However, the most savage treatment by Zaman was meted out immediately after the first six when he attacked Ali in the seventh over. He charged Ali's second ball, driving him hard over mid-off for six. An attempted to bowl fuller, flatter and wider next ball was negated when Zaman swept him through the leg side for four. Two balls later, Zaman was galloping down the wicket again to lift Ali over long-on for another six. At 89 for 0 with the required run rate down to 7.53, Sultans were left completely deflated.
Star of the day
Lynn has had a monster reputation on the T20 franchise circuit over the last several years, particularly in the Caribbean Premier League and Big Bash. But amazingly, this performance was his first century in T20 franchise cricket outside of Australia. There was a great maturity to the knock as well. With Zaman applying the early pressure, Lynn was content to rotate the strike and only attack when there was a genuine loose ball. Though he had several close shaves early on with a couple of inside edges missing the stumps on the way to the fine leg boundary, Lynn got his eye locked in midway through the chase and from there on showed no mercy.
The big miss
The arsenal of bowling guns were rested today by Sultans. The first time these two sides played in their opening match of the season, Imran Tahir was named Man of the Match for his two key wickets while Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Irfan and Shahid Afridi were no less impactful in a match that was clinched with 29 balls to spare chasing a target of 139. Their collective absence was noticeable in the toothless display produced by much of the Sultans bowling unit that took the field on Sunday afternoon.
Where the teams stand
Sultans could afford to rest all of those aforementioned names because they had already clinched first place and the No. 1 seed in the PSL playoffs regardless of today's result, though the loss kept them on 14 points. Barring a miracle, they will play Peshawar Zalmi in one semi-final unless Quetta Gladiators beat Karachi Kings and erase a monumental net-run-rate deficit in the process to steal fourth place from Zalmi. Qalandars end the league phase in third place on ten points and will meet Karachi Kings in the other semi-final on Tuesday.