Lahore Qalandars continued their late resurgence in the PSL, notching up their third successive win after downing Quetta Gladiators by 17 runs. They had opener Fakhar Zaman
to thank primarily for their two points. He put on a show of fabulous power-hitting to clout 94 off 50 balls - the highest individual score this season - and lead his side to 186.
Lahore haven't made any changes to their team since picking up their first win, and their openers Fakhar and Anton Devcich gave them a solid start again. However, when Devcich, Agha Salman and Brendon McCullum - the captain who was controversially given out off a no-ball - fell in quick succession, Fakhar held the innings together, brilliantly supported by a 27-ball 42 from wicketkeeper-batsman Gulraiz Sadaf
. A cameo in the end from Sunil Narine
(20*) ensured Lahore finished with a flourish.
With Jason Roy back in the Quetta side, their top order boasted a frightening quartet of Roy, Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen and Rilee Rossouw. While the England opener got Quetta off to a fast start - they raced to 52 for 0 in five overs - the wicket of Watson immediately set them back. And from thereon the Quetta chase began to unravel. Narine took care of both Pietersen and Roy, and as the asking rate climbed, Quetta found themselves out of the contest. Rossouw launched a counterattack, smashing five sixes in a 22-ball 42, but it only gave Lahore a late scare. Quicks Shaheen Afridi and Sohail Khan eventually wrapped up a comfortable win.
It may have taken till after Lahore were eliminated to begin working on their weaknesses, but they did illustrate the extent to which they have improved in the middle overs on Wednesday. After losing three quick wickets, Lahore's run rate had dipped below seven, and after 11 overs they were stuttering at 76 for 3. But instead of capitulating, Fakhar and Gulraiz launched an astonishing onslaught, hitting 64 in the next four overs. It included an over of fearsome hitting from Fakhar that cost 24 runs, with Rahat Ali the hapless recipient. It was the phase of the game Sarfraz Ahmed might have deemed Lahore to be most vulnerable, but they turned that weakness into a comprehensive strength.
While it is hard to look past Fakhar, one would be remiss to overlook vital contributions from Narine and Gulraiz. After all, Fakhar was dismissed with nearly five overs left in Lahore innings and the score only at 141, when the pair put on an unbroken 45-run stand in 28 balls.
A team led by McCullum on course to win three in a row is likely to be a happy unit. That was how Lahore had been appearing all tournament. Even when they had lost six on the bounce, they never looked like a dressing room falling out with each other. But towards the end of today's contest, when both teams were almost going through the motions with the game virtually in the bag for Lahore, a bizarre scuffle erupted. Sohail Khan, who had been trying to get the attention of Yasir Shah on the boundary without success, inexplicably lost his temper and threw the ball on the full towards him. It very narrowly missed Yasir's head, and the legspinner, to put it mildly, was incandescent. It took all of McCullum's diplomatic powers to assuage the pair, but the lack of judgment from Sohail couldn't help leaving one nonplussed. The pair reconciled at the end of the game, and Yasir even laughed it off. It would have been rather different, of course, if the ball had actually made contact with Yasir.
Lahore drew level with Peshawar Zalmi, though they are still in last place on net run-rate. Quetta remained second, two points behind table-toppers Islamabad United.