Lahore Qalandars ranked 2nd in terms of opening partnerships last season. They averaged 30, scoring at 9 runs per over. But they finished last. A year has gone by and not much seemingly has changed. The dip yesterday, wasn’t as alarming as it was last year. However, it was a dip nonetheless. Despite using their foreign players to perk up the middle order, Qalandars struggled to take advantage of the blistering start, finishing with what in the end seemed a below par score of 171. In the end, it was easy for United. They had Samit Patel and Shadab Khan in the shed and had taken the sting out of game in the 17th over.
What went wrong for Lahore? Wicket. Once Faheem Ashraf had bounced out Sohail Akhtar, no two batsmen could string together a partnership. The defensive skills of Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Waqas Masood were on point. But Lahore allowed them to comeback in the game by giving away cheap wickets. Brendan Taylor tried sweeping a very straight bowl. A low percentage shot which could have yielded a couple at most. Mohammad Hafeez who oddly decided to bat at 7, ran a two on the penultimate ball of the innings, instead of taking the strike. Shaheen was out LBW the next ball. In T20 such small margins can make a massive difference.
The eleven that Qalandars picked didn’t have two death bowlers to start with. Shaheen, who went for some yesterday was the only one who could have a claim at being a decent death bowler. Rahat Ali’s lack of defensive bowling skill have ensured he couldn’t make it to the Pakistan white ball teams. Yasir Shah, a wonderful leg spinner, lacks the straighter one or wrong’un to deceive aggressive batsmen.
Eventually, it was Mohammad Hafeez who came on to bowl the last over. It was a mere formality, but it showed that Lahore needs a specialist bowler, who is apt at bowling Yorkers, Slower Bouncers etc. Perhaps Aizaz Cheema comes in as specialist bowler to make a difference in the last few overs.
Both these issues, i.e. middle order depth and back end of the innings bowling are not new issues. How they overcome this challenge in the coming games can define how their season goes.