Sialkot to clash with Lahore Lions in final
A round-up of the semi-finals of the RBS Twenty20 Cup
Lahore Lions 125 for 7 (Farhat 33) beat Islamabad Leopards 123 for 7 (Naeem Anjum 37) by three wickets
After a low-scoring game swung from one side to the other, it was Kamran Akmal's cool cameo and Lahore Lions' depth in batting that steered them to the final. Needing 24 off the final two overs with three wickets in hand, Lahore had Akmal and Sohail Ahmed (List A average of 37.52) at the crease. The match was virtually decided in the penultimate over, bowled by Afaq Raheem, as Akmal slammed two consecutive sixes over midwicket, and Sohail chipped in with a boundary in the same region to take 19 runs off it.
It had been a superb spell from Raheem till that over, having taken the big wickets of Abdul Razzaq and Salman Butt and giving away only six runs in his two previous overs. It had led Islamabad Leopards' fightback after Imran Farhat and Butt (25) overcame a top-order collapse to take Lahore to a strong 80 for 3 in 13 overs.
Islamabad had suffered a top-order wobble of their own earlier - slumping to 33 for 4 in the seventh over - and needed some big hits from the lower-middle order to set a competitive target. The cornerstone of their total was the 55-run seventh-wicket association between wicketkeeper Naeem Anjum and Imad Wasim (24*) which lifted them from 62 for 6.
Akmal's efforts, though, made sure Lahore didn't suffer a repeat of last year's fate, when they bowed out to Sialkot Stallions in the semi-finals.
Sialkot Stallions 181 (Malik 45, Kamran Younis 43, Zia 3-28) beat Lahore Eagles 126 (Masood 39) by 55 runs
Sialkot Stallions continued to show the form of champions, marching into the finals after overpowering Lahore Eagles at the Gadaffi Stadium. Imran Nazir had Lahore regretting their decision to field by lashing 16 runs off the first over, bowled by Usman Malik. Another six and four followed in the next over before he holed out to long-on for a 10-ball 26. There was no respite for Lahore though as Tahir Mughal carted Mohammad Khalil for three leg-side sixes in a row before rounding off the third over with a boundary to third man. Sialkot were 51 for 1 after three.
The dismissal of Mughal for a 11-ball 30 in the fifth over slowed the Sialkot run-rate, and they coasted along to 133 for 4 in 15. Captain Shoaib Malik then cut loose, smashing 23 off his next nine deliveries before falling for a 27-ball 45. Sialkot lost a slew of wickets towards the end to be bowled out for 181, short of the 200 that looked in sight at one stage but still a formidable target for Lahore.
The chase never got on track. In contrast to Sialkot's rocket-fuelled start, Lahore were out of the game by the end of the Powerplays, losing six wickets. A couple of run-outs and two wickets each for the new-ball bowlers, Kashif Daud and Naved Arif, left Lahore in ruins. No. 9 Fahal Mahmood top scored with 36, but all it did was bring some respectability to the margin of defeat.