The Faisalabad Wolves gave their fans something to cheer about after they defeated the Kandurata Maroons in their final appearance in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013 Qualifiers. After posting a modest 146/6, they restricted the Maroons to 136/7 to register a thrilling 10-run victory at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
After being put in to bat, the Faisalabad Wolves innings followed a pattern that has become synonymous with Pakistan cricket in recent times. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq played a lone hand and stole the show yet again; the 39-year-old, who has been in supreme form in recent times, walked out to bat after his team lost two wickets with just 20 runs on the board. And when he left the field after his team had batted out their allotted 20 overs, he had guided the score to 146.
Soon after Misbah walked in, the Wolves lost Ammar Mahmood and were reduced to 22/3 by the time the field restrictions were relaxed. Misbah was slow off the blocks, scoring just a solitary run off the first six deliveries he faced. He was lucky not to get dismissed on that score when he was dropped by Upul Tharanga at long-off. He made sure he capitalized on that opportunity, and posted his ninth half-century in T20 cricket – his sixth half-century in the last ten innings. He batted for exactly half the quota of his team’s overs and contributed 93 runs to the team’s cause; the next best score in the Wolves’ innings was Mohammad Salman’s 21.
Misbah struck six boundaries and five sixes and scored plenty of runs down the ground. He got to his half-century off 41 deliveries, but then scored 43 runs off the next 19 balls to propel his team to a respectable 146. He was well within striking distance of scoring his second century in T20 cricket, but some clever bowling from Nuwan Kulasekara in the final over denied him a much-deserved three-figure score.
The Maroons bowling attack, which came in for a lot of stick in the earlier two games, put in an improved performance on this occasion. Kulasekara did what was expected of him – picking up two wickets in his first two overs. Dilhara Lokuhettige, Lahiru Jayaratne and Ajantha Mendis kept up the pressure and picked up wickets regularly. The biggest partnership in the Wolves innings was the 74-run fifth wicket stand between Misbah and Mohammad Salman.
The Maroons’ run-chase started on a poor note as they lost opener Thilina Kandamby for nought. Though Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga steadied the innings with a 29-run stand, they found it difficult to get the ball away to the fence often enough. With the required rate mounting all the time, the batsmen needed to take chances and it was in this attempt to force the pace that both batsmen perished. Tharanga, after a staid knock of 25, perished when he holed out to mid-off in the eighth over, while Sangakkara holed out to fine-leg in the 15th over after he made 44 of 36 balls. Chamara Silva chipped in with 25, but he too could not force the pace. The Maroons finished at 136/7.
For the Wolves, Samiullah Khan conceded only 15 runs in his three overs. Ehsan Adil enhanced his reputation with a tidy spell, finishing with figures of 3/26, while the spin pair of Saeed Ajmal and Imran Khalid kept things tight too.
Trivia: Faisalabad Wolves’ batting statistics in the Karbonn Smart CLT20 2013 Qualifiers read thus: Runs scored by Misbah-ul-Haq – 195, Runs accumulated by rest of the batsmen – 190
Man of the Match: Misbah-ul-Haq for his match-winning 93