Rawalpindi Rams accomplished what no team has managed since April 2005 - win a Twenty20 match against Sialkot Stallions - as they overcame the local giants by 13 runs in a high-scoring clash in Lahore.
Stallions came into the game on the back of a five-year unbeaten streak, but it was clear from the outset that today was going to be no walk in the park. Naved Malik and Awais Zia came out throwing punches in all directions, spanking quick 40s in an opening stand that raised 88 in 6.2 overs. Sarfraz Ahmed and Abdur Rehman bore the brunt of the assault, bleeding 101 runs in their eight combined overs.
The innings failed to build on the frenetic start, but the middle-order ensured that they did not throw it away either. Adeel Malik pulled things back with 3 for 25 in the middle overs, but Naved Ashraf and Hammad Azam ensured the Stallions would need to chase close to 200 to qualify for the semis.
Imran Nazir launched the pursuit in typical fashion, lashing 45 runs in just 15 balls, suggesting that even a target of 198 could not rein in the champion side. He smote five sixes and three fours, and raised 72 in 32 balls with Tahir Mughal to set the tone for a tight finish. Azam was larruped for 50 runs in his four overs, but also managed to strike four crucial blows. His dismissal of Nazir prompted an inevitable drop in the scoring rate, but Shoaib Malik and Haris Sohail kept their side in the hunt with a 41-run stand in 31 balls. Shoaib's exit, with 42 needed off 31, gave the Rams an opening and they barged in with a flurry of late wickets. Sohail kept trying, but Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's inability to rotate the strike or reach the boundary towards the end cost the Stallions a spot in the final four as the innings closed at 184 for 7.
Islamabad Leopards charged into the semis with a commanding nine-wicket victory against Faisalabad Wolves in the winner-takes-all Group C clash at the Gaddafi Stadium.
The spin of the coin was the only thing that went the Wolves' way as their batting came unstuck in spectacular fashion against Shoiab Akhtar. Asif Hussain, Mohammad Hafeez and Ali Waqaz were all back in the pavilion for ducks by the end of the first over, and the Wolves' eventual score of 141 for 8 was a major improvement after that shambolic start. Misbah-ul-Haq, recently appointed as the captain for the Test series against South Africa, gave a reminder of his Twenty20 skills with 47 off 32 balls. Khurram Shehzad and Naved Latif offered support to set the Leopards a tricky chase.
The reply was just as dominant as the bowling performance earlier in the day as Raheel Majeed stroked 69 off 58 balls with nine fours and a six to lead the way. Umair Khan and Fayyaz Ahmed offered support to ensure that the Leopards got home with plenty to spare.
Karachi Dolphins surged to the highest domestic Twenty20 score in Pakistan - 243 for 2 - on the back of a majestic 101 off 61 balls from Shahzaib Hasan, to defeat Lahore Eagles and qualify to the semis from Group D. The Eagles were left to rue their decision to field as the Dolphins openers took off in spectacular fashion. Khalid Latif's 55 off 37 balls was completely over-shadowed by Shahzaib, who capitalised after being put down on 11 by Ali Azmat. Shahzaib has been in fine form during this event, adding a century to his 76 against Hyderabad Hawks on Monday. His displays showed the national selectors, who announced the Twenty20 squad for the South Africa series ahead of this tournament and left him out of it, in poor light.
Following the 138-run opening stand, Shahid Afridi blitzed 48 off 18 balls, before Tariq Haroon tonked four of his six balls for sixes to take the Dolphins to a towering total. The Eagles made a fist of the chase, with Imran Farhat hitting 53 off 36 balls to launch the reply. Azmat tried to make up for his drop with five sixes and five fours in his 69 off 38 balls, but Tanvir Ahmed and Afridi bowled tight spells to ensure that the Eagles fell 35 runs short.
Semi-final line-up(both matches in Lahore on October 15)
Islamabad Leopards v Lahore Lions
Karachi Dolphins v Rawalpindi Rams