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The Peshawar Zalmi conceded 44 runs in the last two overs against the Lahore Qalandars in their game on Thursday, Wahab Riaz's 19th over proving especially costly, going for 29 runs. But Shoaib Malik, who hit a 48-ball 73 in the chase, which stopped ten runs short, pointed to Rashid Khan's 5 for 20 as the real reason for the Zalmi's loss, saying the Afghan spinner "broke our back".
"In death overs, we gave a bit more runs and that was the area I think we need to improve. We were not really expecting them to get to 170. We did bowl well upfront and the missing element was a wristspinner, who could have made a difference with strikes in the middle overs," Malik said after the game, which left the Zalmi at No. 4 and strengthened the Qalandars' position at the top of the table. "But, at the same time, we have got to appreciate the way [Ben] Dunk and [Tim] David batted [48 in 33 balls and 64* in 36 balls respectively], and despite the tough pitch they not only scored runs but scored with a good strike rate to make sure they finish (on a) high to set a good target."
Asked to bat first, the Qalandars were reeling at 25 for 4 after 7.3 overs, but David partnered Dunk for 81 runs in 49 balls first, and then 47 off just 13 balls with James Faulkner for the seventh wicket. Riaz, the Zalmi captain, had conceded just seven runs in his first three overs, but was taken to the cleaners by David and Faulkner in the penultimate over. Faulkner then had the Zalmi at 5 for 2 after two overs, but Malik brought them right back in the game, till Khan changed the script. His strikes were those of David Miller, Rovman Powell, Sherfane Rutherford, Fabian Allen and Riaz, all big hitters, to leave the scoreboard reading 114 for 7. Malik couldn't do it from there, his innings ending when he was out hit wicket to Haris Rauf.
"Regardless of all the extra runs we conceded, it was still Rashid Khan who broke our back with his five wickets," Malik said. "He took all those batsmen who have the good strike rate wherever they play in the world, and that haul was the one that changed the game."
With four games left in the league stage, Malik wants the Zalmi to focus on regrouping and execute their plans better: "The focus is to play the best game with every plan we have, and execute them at the fullest in the matches. Overall, if you look at the whole table, all teams more or less are standing equally, so every game is important. We try to go game to game, discuss the opponent and execute the plans accordingly."
For Khan, the match-winning haul came a day after he had returned 1 for 9 in four overs and hit a five-ball 15 not-out to help the Qalandars beat the Islamabad United - he won the Player-of-the-Match award then, too.
"It's a kind of start [to the second leg of PSL 2021] we needed as a team, as you always need to have a proper start. So with back-to-back wins, the morale is high," Khan said. "Everyone is contributing and it's not about just a single guy. Everyone is giving their contribution, especially today in batting we were struggling in the first ten overs. But Ben Dunk and David took the innings deep and brought us back in the game. It was very special, so it's about the team efforts, and when everyone chips in with their part in T20 cricket, success comes in.
"We never think about being champions, but rather always think about doing the right things and take the responsibility as a team. The more you fail, the more you learn from it and that's what happened with us as a team as well. We had tough four years [the Qalandars finished runners-up last season after being in the bottom two each of the first four seasons], learnt a lot, and are now coming back strong.
"It's a time for us to step up as a team and we know how to deal (with failure) and where we were losing. We now have the best bowling attack, an experienced batting line-up, and now it's all about expressing your skills."