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PSL 8: Qalandari Transcendence

Lahore harness bowling greatness to do the unprecedented

Lahore Qalandars went back-to-back in the final of PSL 8, defeating Multan Sultans in a last-ball thriller to do the unprecedented and claim their second PSL title in a row, the first team to do so.

In a tournament where record-high scores made the headlines, Lahore swam against the tide, harnessing their bowling strength throughout. It might be counterintuitive in modern T20 cricket to focus on and expect your bowlers to deliver victories, but it can’t be denied that they have perfected this approach in the PSL.

The Qalandars certainly don’t lack batting firepower, but a look at the relevant statistics merely confirms what is readily apparent after watching them play. In all major T20 leagues since 2020, this year’s PSL had the highest run rate, at 8.69. At the same time, Lahore’s run rate throughout the season, at 8.3, was the second-worst, only fractionally better than Quetta Gladiators, with their batting average also at the penultimate position. Their batting order was chock-full of slow starters. Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Sam Billings and Hussain Talat all had strike rates of below 120 in their first 10 balls. Even if they kicked on later in their innings, the hitters down the order, Sikandar Raza, David Wiese and Rashid Khan, often had lesser balls to face than ideal.

With the ball in hand, though it was a completely different story for the Qalandars. Both their economy rate and bowling average were the best in the league. With an attack comprising Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Rashid Khan, David Wiese and Zaman Khan, and Sikandar Raza as a luxury sixth bowler, it would frankly be a let-down if they did not dominate opposing batters. While the former three don’t need any introduction, Wiese is a wily and experienced operator, boasting the most 5-fers in T20 history, and Zaman Khan is quickly blossoming into an international-level bowler. In a display of steely nerves, he defended 13 runs off the last over in the final against Khushdil Shah and Abbas Afridi, in a repeat of the inaugural match of the season, when he had defended 15 off the last 6, with Khushdil again facing the last ball.

In comparison, the losing finalists, Multan Sultans, built a fearsome batting lineup, as demonstrated by their run rate of 9.2 and a batting average of 35, both values topping those of all other teams. Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood, two reliable anchors, were followed by Rilee Rossouw, Kieron Pollard and David Miller. When Masood and Miller dropped out, they were respectively replaced by Usman Khan, who blazed the fastest hundred in PSL history in his first match of the season, and Tim David, the batter with the highest strike rate in the league’s history. Their bowling’s quality was not much inferior to Lahore’s either, with Abbas Afridi and the sensationally quick Ihsanullah topping the wicket-takers chart, and Usama Mir, the rejuvenated leggie, not far behind. Thanks to their wicket-taking exploits, Multan had the second-best bowling average in the league, behind Lahore, but throughout the tournament, their main bowlers’ supporting cast did not feel as effective as Lahore’s. In fairness, the Sultans were missing two quicks due to injury, Shahnawaz Dahani and Ireland’s Josh Little, but even with them being present, their bowling would have still been unlikely to have as much bite as Lahore’s. Hardly any team’s would, though.

As the numbers show, Lahore’s bowling attack, arguably the best in all of T20 cricket, made all the difference on pitches that were graveyards for bowlers. If they can level up their batting a notch or two, in a league where no one franchise has towered over the others in the 8 seasons thus far, the Qalandars might just transcend to that level.

Note: “all major T20 leagues” comprise PSL, IPL, The Hundred, BPL, CPL, LPL, ILT20, SA20 and BBL; statistics from Cricmetric and Cricinfo

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