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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Umar Akmal delivers PSL a good old fashioned T20 cloudburst of boundaries and sixes

We wanted runs and how we finally got them. Osman Samiuddin reports from the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Umar Akmal, right, produced a match-winning performance with the bat to lead Lahore Qalandars to victory against Quetta Gladiators. Courtesy PCB
Umar Akmal, right, produced a match-winning performance with the bat to lead Lahore Qalandars to victory against Quetta Gladiators. Courtesy PCB

Lahore Qalandars 194-3 (Akmal 93, Delport 73, Babar 1-31) beat Quetta Gladiators 131 (Nawaz 42, Sarfraz 31, Gohar 3-14, Mendis 3-17) by 63 runs

DUBAI // We wanted runs and how we finally got them. The Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) first leg in Dubai has been short on runs but not, it must be said, short of compelling drama. Bowlers have held sway and why not?

That was best encapsulated by the two games on Sunday. Islamabad United first defended 132 against Karachi Kings, by just two runs, before Quetta Gladiators chased 136 against Peshawar Zalmi with a ball and three wickets to spare.

But sometimes, you just want a cloudburst of boundaries and sixes and in the league’s eighth game on Monday night, just before it moves to Sharjah, the hitherto hapless Lahore Qalandars provided them.

Did it help that Chris Gayle was absent, with a back injury, thus putting the onus on the rest of the order? Gayle’s back injury is a possible dampener on the league for it may force him out entirely — not that he has lit it up especially.

Osman Samiuddin: Sixes not necessary: Pakistan Super League, so far, a T20 league that feels like cricket

But it allowed first Cameron Delport and then, gloriously, Umar Akmal to pound their way to the league’s highest score, and by some distance. The pair put on 95 in seven overs to take Lahore to 194 for 3, and ultimately to their first win by 63 runs.

Delport had started the glut, nimble usage of his feet allowing him to take a toll on the spinners. Delport was already on 41 when Akmal arrived; by the time the South African fell for 73, Akmal was already on 61.

It was a massacre and though Quetta fought gamely, through Mohammad Nawaz in particular, they never really threatened.

Player of match — Umar Akmal

In many ways, it should be a cause of great sadness that Umar Akmal is increasingly being seen as a Twenty20 specialist. The kind of innings he played, though perfect for the format, was also further proof of why he really needs to find a way back into Pakistan’s longer format sides.

None of the eight sixes and six fours he hit would have been out of place in an ODI or a Test, or a coaching manual. The pick was the tribute to his elder brother Kamran’s famous straight six off Dale Steyn in the 2009 World Twenty20 semi-final; Umar’s came off Umar Gul, but was every bit as astonishing.

He was especially harsh on Gul, hitting half of his sixes off him. A first PSL century would have been the perfect way to finish but it was not to be. And the innings was none the lesser for missing the landmark.

The National Verdict

One of the PSL’s strongest points has been the player draft system through which franchises picked their players. That has allowed no side to look overtly stronger than another.

Lahore had looked abysmal until Monday night but to have beaten the only undefeated side in the tournament, and one that has looked ominously good, is testament to the relatively even nature of the league.

Their bowling still looks at least a couple of bowlers short of being able to contain the best sides, especially in Sharjah where runs are expected to come easier. But they have a first win, joining Islamabad and Karachi with a win each. And they also have a little bit of confidence as the league moves to the next leg.

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