Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
Peshawar Zalmi 176 for 3 (Akmal 107*) beat Lahore Qalandars 172 for 4 (Devcich 70, Akhtar 30*) by seven wickets
Peshawar Zalmi piggy-backed on Kamran Akmal's fourth T20 century - and second fifty-plus score in as many days - to brush aside Lahore Qalandars by seven wickets and storm into the Playoffs. Opening the batting, Akmal's undefeated 61-ball 107 was instrumental in Peshawar pulling off the highest successful chase in this year's tournament so far. Lahore elected to bat and made 172, but on a good batting surface, it wasn't going to be adequate, as Peshawar strolled to the target with two overs to spare.
Right from the time Peshawar scored 20 runs off Anton Devcich, who had been responsible for Lahore's strong batting display, in the first over of their chase, things appeared ominous for Lahore. The dismissals of opener Riki Wessels and Dwayne Smith - in the second and seventh overs respectively - were the only bright spots for Lahore's bowlers, who copped a hammering at the hands of Akmal. Right from the start, Akmal maintained a steady flow of boundaries - he scored 11 fours and seven sixes in all - and raised a century off 59 balls, as the chase proved a walk in the park for Peshawar.
Had it not been for Akmal's numbing assault, Devcich could have possibly emerged the match-winner for Lahore with his 42-ball 70, which included two fours and seven sixes. While admittedly a chancy effort, Devcich struck some mighty blows when he wasn't using the pace to deflect the ball to the shorter boundary on the leg-side. After Devcich departed in the 15th over, Sohail Akhtar, who smashed an unbeaten 30 off 16 balls, and Gulraiz Sadaf (26* off 21 balls) helped Lahore sustain the momentum, as they amassed 52 runs in the last five overs. All that would ultimately prove futile.
Where the match was won
While it would be fair to say that Akmal had the chase covered for the most part, there was a phase where Yasir Shah and Shaheen Afridi successfully slowed down things - overs seven to 10 yielded only 24 runs. Akmal, along with Mohammad Hafeez, took on the bowlers and piled on 54 runs in the next five overs to reduce the target to 38 in the last five overs. With the cushion of wickets, Peshawar had no problem in polishing off the required runs in the next three overs.
The man who won it
Coming into the game, Akmal had three half-centuries in the tournament. The 36-year-old knew this was a must-win game that needed him to do even better, and therefore, having reached his half-century in the 12th over, Akmal marched on. Despite a bout of cramps, Akmal was unrelenting with his cuts, pulls, step-out-and-drive strokes, and slog sweeps. By the time the game came to an end, Akmal had ascended to the top of the run charts.
Where they stand
With this win, Peshawar have climbed to second place in the points table and have qualified for the Playoffs. Lahore Qalandars slumped to their seventh defeat and finished last in what has been a forgettable season for them.
Qalandars vs Zalmi