Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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Lahore Qalandars 182 for 4 (Fakhar 60, Hafeez 43) beat Multan Sultans 130 all out (Zaman Khan 3-21) by 52 runs
It took seven matches and two venues to get there, but Multan Sultans have finally lost a game. It came against the home favourites Lahore Qalandars in an impressively clinical performance from Shaheen Afridi's side, who, after posting 182, saw off the defending champions by 52 runs with consummate ease.
In what was a team effort by Qalandars' bowlers, Sultans were denied the ability to get off to the fast start they rely on so much for their dominance. They managed just 38 in the first six overs and, as the asking rate climbed, Rashid Khan broke open the game with wickets off successive balls. Regular wickets continued to fall, and while Sultans, Khushdil Shah in particular, continued to go hard at the target, Mohammad Rizwan's side fell some way short.
Sultans, who had already qualified for the knockouts, opted to chase after winning the toss despite recent success defending scores. Anwar Ali got Abdullah Shafique in the first over, but it was Fakhar Zaman Sultans needed to worry about. In a somewhat lacklustre bowling display in the powerplay, Qalandars were allowed to pile on the runs, picking off wayward deliveries as they went. Blessing Muzarabani, Sultans' hero 24 hours ago, couldn't quite find the same accuracy here, either at the top or tail of the innings, ending up conceding 48 in his four.
Fakhar's 37-ball 60 aside, it didn't seem as if Sultans were falling too far behind in the game. Imran Tahir and Khushdil kept Qalandars honest with spin through the middle, while Abbas Afridi was sensational with his variations. By the 14-over mark, Qalandars had just 107 on the board, and with Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Ghulam struggling for momentum, Rizwan's men seemingly had little to worry about.
But 76 off the final six overs, aided by less-than-accurate death bowling, helped the home side finish up with a daunting 182. In a season where the pendulum of power has shifted dramatically from the chasers to the defenders, Sultans needed a brisk start. But it was one they were emphatically denied, with Afridi and Haris Rauf keeping things tight with the new ball. Afridi got the big wicket of Shan Masood with a lovely offcutter, while Rashid and David Wiese kept the batters quiet.
The Afghan legspinner cleaned up Rizwan for a 27-ball 20 which had been a struggle throughout, but it was Rilee Rossouw's wicket that got Qalandars believing. He was trapped in front off a flatter ball, with the umpire's decision upheld on review, and with the asking rate having soared above 11, Sultans had lost a key asset in their chase. Sohaib Maqsood and Tim David were handy for a few boundaries here and there, but they fell in consecutive overs, and Sultans suddenly began to fade.
Confidence pumping through their veins, and buoyed on by the biggest crowd of the tournament, Qalandars ripped through Multan's lower order. They were seeking to post not just two further points on the board, but make a statement every side in the league would be forced to heed. Rauf got rid of Khushdil, who represented the last glimmer of Sultan's hope before Afridi cleaned up Muzarabani. It was left to emerging player Zaman Khan to pick up the final wicket in a contest from which Qalandars have unquestionably emerged as one of the genuine title contenders this season.
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