Lahore Qalandars 171 for 5 (Hafeez 74*, Mahmood 3-41) beat Peshawar Zalmi 170 for 9 (Malik 39, Viljoen 37, Dilbar 3-33) by five wickets
How the game played out
Featuring in their first playoff game, the Lahore Qalandars hunted down 171 and knocked out former champions Peshawar Zalmi in Karachi. The Pakistan Super League (PSL) resumed on Saturday after a pandemic-induced break of eight months, but it was business as usual for the Qalandars as they notched up their sixth victory in their last eight matches. Ben Dunk, who had led the batting earlier this year, holed out for 20 off 19 balls, but Mohammad Hafeez stepped up, his 34-ball half-century putting Qalandars in the second Eliminator.
The Qalandars were also helped in their quest by Zalmi's attack that didn't have a specialist spinner. The Zalmi seamers tried to hit the pitch, and while it worked for the them in the powerplay, the ball skidded onto the bat later in dewy conditions.
When Samit Patel holed out for 20, the game was evenly poised, with the Qalandars needing 41 off four overs. But Hafeez, who turned 40 last month, reminded the world of his power and calmness, finishing it off with an unbeaten 74 off 46 balls.
After being inserted, the Zalmi rode on thirties from their new recruit Faf du Plessis (31), his brother-in-law Hardus Viljoen (37), and Shoaib Malik (39), but it wasn't enough in the end. Shaheen Afridi swung the ball, Haris Rauf and Dilbar Hussain provided extra pace, while David Wiese smartly bowled cutters into the pitch for the Qalandars.
Star(s) of the day
Who else? The Qalandars didn't need Hafeez with the ball, but they desperately needed him to take charge of the middle order after Lancashire quick Saqib Mahmood blasted out the top three within five overs. Hafeez used the pace of the Zalmi's bowlers to his advantage, regularly tapping them behind the wicket. 22 of his 74 runs came in the third-man region. Then, even after Dunk and Patel were dismissed, Hafeez didn't panic and saw off his former side.
Afridi also did his bit, first yorking Haider Ali for a duck and then returning at the death to fool Carlos Brathwaite with a slower cutter.
The 18th over of the chase, bowled by Mahmood. Hafeez sized up the first ball, which was in his slot, and crunched it over extra-cover. Three balls later, he backed away and mowed a short delivery over wide long-on for six. When Mahmood went full again, Hafeez carved him over point for another four to cap a 16-run over. Those blows narrowed the equation to 20 off 12 balls. Hafeez and Wiese needed only six balls to secure victory.
The big miss
Hafeez was on 12 when he threw his bat at a wide delivery from left-arm seamer Rahat Ali in the eighth over. Seemingly there was a noise as the ball passed the bat, but none of the Zalmi players appealed, with UltraEdge later detecting a spike. Hafeez got another reprieve when he was 33 in the 13th over. After he top-edged a pull, Ali ran around, got into an awkward side-on position and dropped the catch.
Where the teams stand
Zalmi will go home while Qalandars will face the Multan Sultans on Sunday for a crack at Karachi Kings in the final. With previous winners Zalmi, Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators all eliminated, the PSL will have a new champion in 2020.