Lahore Lions kept their chances of progressing to the main draw of the Champions League T20 alive with a comprehensive victory over Southern Express. Their future in the tournament, however, will be decided only at the end of the game between Northern Knights and Mumbai Indians.
At the toss, Express captain Jehan Mubarak had stated that he had opted to bowl because he preferred chasing a target with the qualification at stake, and he had aimed to restrict the Lions to a total in the range of 130-140. Those goals, however, came undone in the last five overs of the Lions innings against an attacking innings from Mohammad Hafeez, who blasted 67 off 40 balls.
The Lions went into their last five overs with the score at 89 for 3 and the run rate hovering around six before Hafeez changed gears. He blasted Seekkuge Prasanna for a four and three successive sixes off the first four balls of the 16th over, in which 25 runs were added to the Lions total. The Lions captain followed that up with a few more big hits and brought up the 150 for the side with a six and four off Jayampathi in the 19th over. By the time the innings had ended at 164 for 6, 75 runs had come off the last five overs and 50-run milestones had taken 43, 50 and 17 balls, respectively.
Express needed one of their top-order batsmen to replicate the kind of innings Hafeez had played but their challenge began withering away in the sixth over, as Aizaz Cheema dismissed the top three with the score on 36. An already weakened innings stumbled along to an early finish as Express lost four wickets for six runs in two overs, including Mubarak who had struck a brisk 35.
Cheema, who missed out on a hat-trick for the third successive match in the tournament, finished with 3 for 15 and was well supported by Wahab Riaz and Adnan Rasool as Express folded for 109 in 18 overs.
The Lions dominated thoroughly with the ball but they lacked fluency in the first half of their batting innings. Until the 15th over, the Express bowlers had done a good job of restraining the batsmen, specially after Farveez Maharoof’s strikes in successive overs.
The Lions opening pair of Umar Siddiq, promoted up the order in place of Nasir Jamshed, and Ahmed Shehzad had made a confident start before Maharoof landed the first breakthrough, enticing a dab from Siddiq that was caught by wicketkeeper Kusal Perera. Maharoof’s next over turned out to be even better with the wickets of Shehzad and Jamshed, both batsmen out to poor shots. The next seven overs saw Lions score just 37 runs as Hafeez and Saad Nasim focused on rebuilding the innings and set up a brilliant flourish at the end.