RAIPUR: 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 said that he had chosen to bowl because he preferred chasing a target with the qualification at stake, and had aimed to restrict 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.
Lions went into their last five overs on 89 for 3 before Hafeez changed gears. He blasted Seekkuge Prasanna for a four and three successive sixes off the first four balls of the 16th over, which went for 25. 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 Charith Jayampathi in the 19th over. By the time the innings ended at 164 for 6, 75 had come off the last five overs.
Express needed one of their top-order batsmen to replicate the kind of innings Hafeez had played but their challenge began withering away soon, as Aizaz Cheema reduced them to 36 for 3. An already weakened innings stumbled along to an early finish as Express lost four wickets for six runs, 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.
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.
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.