Peshawar Zalmi’s HBL Pakistan Super League title defence is still alive after a brutal century by Kamran Akmal in Sharjah helped them to a crucial win over Lahore Qalandars.
Darren Sammy’s side had needed to win two matches in the space of 24 hours to be confirmed as the third side through to the playoffs of PSL3.
Having achieved the first of those when they beat Karachi Kings on Thursday, they dispatched the last-placed Qalandars in a blaze of sixes on Friday afternoon at UAE’s oldest cricket venue, eventually winning by seven wickets with 12 balls remaining.
As he had been on Thursday, Akmal was again the hero. He followed up his man of the match display for making 75 against Karachi with an even better effort against Lahore.
The workload was showing obvious signs: he limped through the second half of his innings, apparently due to the effects of cramp.
Even that could not halt him, though. He reached three figures off his 59th delivery, when he pulled Shaheen Afridi for four.
He hit the next for four, too, at which point Brendon McCullum, the opposition captain, walked across to him from his fielding position at extra cover and shook his hand to congratulate him on his excellence.
Akmal has form for this sort of thing. He was the leading run-scorer as Peshawar won the title last season. His haul for the weekend moved him back to the top of that chart again this time around.
It was also the first ton of PSL 3, and was on top of the three other half-centuries Akmal has managed.
His innings meant Zalmi made light work of what had appeared a daunting chase. The fact Lahore had already missed out on a playoff place – having finished last in the first two seasons of PSL – seemed to have a liberating effect on their batsmen.
They swung freely, unencumbered by any sense of pressure. Anton Devcich, the New Zealander who replaced misfiring Umar Akmal to good effect midway through this tournament, top-scored.
The left-handed opener had struck one of the fastest half-centuries of the tournament when he debuted for Qalandars in Dubai last week. He was not much slower this time around, blazing seven sixes in a 42-ball stay that brought him 70.
What Devcich started, Sohail Akhtar finished. He finished unbeaten on 30 off just 16 balls, hoisting Lahore to 172 for four from their 20 overs.
With Akmal in this sort of form, though, the chase was light work for the holders.