Lahore Qalandars are beginning to reap the benefits from their development programme as the PSL franchise booked their place in Saturday’s Abu Dhabi T20 final with a convincing 35-run victory over Hobart Hurricanes.
Qalandars, who fielded a number of players from their programme having scouted Pakistan for promising talent, went into the contest at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday knowing a triumph would see them advance from their group.
That was down largely to captain Sohail Akhtar’s century in the six-wicket win against Yorkshire Vikings on Thursday.
However, there was no repeat from the opening batsman as he fell for 37 although Mohammad Faizan’s half-century saw them reach a competitive 181-6 in their 20 overs.
In their chase, Big Bash League’s Hurricanes made a rapid start with 58 runs after eight overs. But leg-spinner Farzan Raja, who was spotted by Qalandars, was a constant threat for their batsmen and the 23-year-old finished the game as the stand-out bowler with 4-24. Skipper Charlie Wakim top-scored with 43 for Hurricanes, who ended the innings on 146-8.
All the praise was for Raja and the bowler credited head coach Aaqib Javed for showing belief in him.
#ManOfTheMatch Farzan Raja from the @lahoreqalandars had an excellent bowling spell at #ZayedCricketStadium this afternoon. His 4-wicket wonder helped the winning squad restrict the @HurricanesBBL in the second innings. #AbuDhabiT20 #HHvBD pic.twitter.com/hNyJNKOk5F— Abu Dhabi Cricket (@AbuDhabiCricket) October 5, 2018
“It was an amazing game and I want to congratulate Hobart Hurricanes as they played very good cricket,” he said. “I am very happy with my performance as the ball was turning a bit. Aaqib (Javed) said I just have to have contain wickets and not try to take wickets. In T20 cricket, containing bowling is very important and that is what I did.”
Mitchell McClenaghan, one of the most experienced members for Qalandars, believes the result proves that the programme can open doors for aspiring cricketers who have not been noticed.
“It’s great for the Raja family and the whole of the Qalandars organisation that there’s some return for the effort that’s been put into the development programme over the last three or four years,” said the 32-year-old New Zealand fast-bowler.
“It’s nice to see some young cricketers come through and win a couple of games. It’s been a long time coming. Raja was fantastic today. Last night I thought he was really good against Yorkshire, but unfortunately there were three or four balls which went through legs here and there, so his economy didn’t show how well he bowled.”
For Wakim, the 27-year-old lamented his side’s batting performance. “We gave away 20 runs too many but we did back ourselves to chase it,” he said. “I think we set a decent total to chase but we lost wickets in the 12th over when we needed to accelerate.”
Meanwhile, Tony de Zorzi smashed an unbeaten century as Multiply Titans thrashed Boost Defenders by 50 runs in the late game.
De Zorzi hit 106no off 57 balls as the South African outfit posted an imposing total of 218-3.
The opener was well supported by Chris Morris, who contributed with 46. In reply, Defenders reached 168-8 with Colin Ingram scoring 51.
Titans can reach the final if they beat Auckland Aces today.
England came up against one of the rarest sights in cricket during their first tour match in Sri Lanka – ambidextrous spinner Kamindu Mendis – but everything else about their comfortable win was firmly by the book.
Twenty-year-old Mendis was lining up for a strong Sri Lankan Board XI in Colombo and showcased his incredible ability to deliver both right-arm off-breaks and slow left-armers, happily switching from one to the other mid-over with no discernible dip in quality.
Having already made a confident 61, the Galle native proved himself a true all-rounder with his display of versatility but his eye-catching eight-over stint was not enough to distract England skipper Eoin Morgan or Joe Root.
The pair put on an unbroken stand of 174 for the third wicket, finishing not out on 91 and 90 respectively when bad light arrived to bring a 43-run victory via the DLS method.
England had earlier kept a home side featuring nine full internationals to 288-9, with spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid to the fore.
Moeen claimed 3-42 as he reeled off 10 consecutive overs in sapping heat at the P Sara Stadium and is more than happy to stick to bowling with one action.
“I’ve never seen someone do that live but it’s great and fantastic for the game,” he said of Mendis.
“It’s amazing he was so accurate with both arms and really it will be the way cricket is going to go. I’ve tried bowling left-arm but I was so bad…you just don’t have that same feel.
“You hear rumours about these guys being around but for him to bowl to that standard and be that good is fantastic.”
Ambidextrous spinner Kamindu Mendis has just bowled off-spin to Eoin Morgan and slow left-arm to Joe Root in the same over...— Paul Newman 🌈 (@Paul_NewmanDM) October 5, 2018
There was a first look at Olly Stone in a senior England shirt but despite showing good signs of pace and bounce his six overs were a peripheral part of the tale. In all England’s seamers bowled 23 overs for 158, compared to 27 overs for 121 from the spin pair plus part-timer Root.
A third specialist, Liam Dawson, is expected to get a run out in the second warm-up on Saturday and could have a role to play in the forthcoming five-match series.
“We feel we (spinners) play a massive role to keep it tight and take wickets but these guys are used to these conditions so it might not be as easy for us as people think,” said Moeen.
“At least we do have things in our favour. It was good for my confidence to get a couple of wickets up front. We would like to think we’ll win this series but we will have to play really well. The conditions will be difficult but hopefully we’ll be fine.”
The last word belonged to Mendis, who has high hopes of bringing his skills to the senior international stage.
“When I was eight years old, playing in the garden with my friends, I learned to bowl with both arms. Now I am comfortable with both and happy to do it any match,” he said.
“I am trying to play for my country and my aim is to play for Sri Lanka, I’ll work hard for it. Root and Morgan knew what I was going to do, they didn’t panic and are very big match players. They are two of the best I have bowled to.”
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan is facing a race against time to be fit for the Test and according to a report by ESPNCricinfo, has been all but ruled out of the clash.
The 20-year-old Pakistan star is said to be still recovering from a groin injury he picked up during the side’s campaign in the recently concluded Asia Cup. He has so far played four Tests in his still fledgling career in which he has picked up eight scalps while also registering three half-centuries with the bat.
If Shadab is indeed unfit come Sunday, it will put pay to Pakistan hopes of unleashing a twin leg-spin attack against the vulnerable Aussies.
Senior leg-spinner Yasir Shah is expected to lead the spin contingent which could now feature Bilal Asif instead of Shadab. Bilal provides Pakistan with a varied option with his off-spin and could be particularly effective against an Australia batting card which includes three left-handers in the top six batsmen.
The 33-year-old off-spinner has been capped three times by Pakistan in the ODI format but is yet to make his Test debut.
While Shadab’s injury could open the doors for a Bilal debut, it could also strengthen Mohammad Hafeez’s case for an inclusion in the playing XI.
The veteran all-rounder was a late addition to the Test squad for the series and his off-spin abilities could be a handy option for skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to turn to against the Aussies.
It has been over two years now that Hafeez has featured in the format with his last appearance coming in August 2016 in a Test against England at Birmingham.