Misbah-ul-Haq starred in Faisalabad Wolves‘ 10-run win over Kandurata Maroons in the second-last Qualifier match of the Champions League 2013 at Mohali on Friday.
Both the teams came into the match knowing that the result held little consequence. There wasn’t much except pride that the two Asian teams were playing for. However, despite Mohali’s heat setting in and the temperature hovering around 35 degrees Celsius, the sparse crowd at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium witnessed an entertaining encounter.
After being set 147 for victory, Kandurata’s chase didn’t begin easily. Samiullah Khan troubled opener Upal Tharanga with the early movement. After being squared time and again, Tharanga came back to hit three consecutive exquisite boundaries off the next over. However, Asad Ali, bowling the second over came back to scalp the wicket of Thilina Kandamby, who missed a flick walking across to the off-stump and was dismissed leg-before.
In company of Kumar Sangakkara, Tharanga put Kandurata in a comfortable position. They controlled their attacking instincts and scored at run-a-ball picking up easy singles and twos. However, Ehsan Adil’s introduction into the attack worked well as he picked up two wickets in two overs. First it was the dismissal of Tharanga, who gifted an easy catch to Asad Ali against the run of play. Skipper Lahiru Thirimanne too followed the pattern and lost his wicket in a similar fashion. Walking down the track, he too gifted an easy catch to Asad.
Faisalabad didn’t capitalise on the opportunities as they made a mess of the chances that were thrown at them by the Kandurata batsmen. Sangakkara was given two lifelines — at 17 and 36. However, as the runs dried, Sangakkara couldn’t help but take his chances and was soon caught at deep mid-wicket for 44. It was unlike Misbah, who made the most of the opportunity presented to him by Tharanga while he was batting on seven.
The match was headed to a close finish as Kandurata’s lower order threw their bat at virtually everything. With two overs to go and 27 runs to win, it was Kandurata who lost their nerves first. They managed to score just two runs off the penultimate over bowler by Asad Ali.
However, the match belonged to Misbah-ul-Haq, who struck his third consecutive half-century of the tournament. His 60-ball innings of 93 not out included six boundaries and five huge sixes. The half-century was Misbah’s seventh in his last 10 innings across various formats.
Earlier in the day, Kandurata skipper Lahiru Thirimanne won the toss and elected to field. The Sri Lankan franchise made two changes to their side. They brought in Lahiru Jayaratne and Milinda Siriwardana in place of Kaushal Lokuarachchi and Shehan Jayasuriya. On the other hand, Faisalabad Wolves fielded an unchanged team.
To the excitement of players and the sparse crowd that had gathered, Ammar Mahmood lofted the first ball of the innings just above the head of the fielder stationed at mid-on. The batsman followed it up with a similar shot over mid-off. However, the second time, he didn’t get enough elevation, but the fielder ensured that he was lucky to survive. In the fourth ball of the same over, Mahmood survived a close leg-before appeal and scampered through for a single. Nonetheless, his opening partner Ali Waqas wasn’t as lucky as he edged his first delivery to the wicketkeeper and was dismissed for a Golden Duck.
Both Dilhara Lokuhettige and Nuwan Kulasekara used the heavy wind to their advantage to get movement off the air. However, with the pitch playing true, the ball came at a good pace to the bat.
After bowling the first over from the Pavilion End, Kulasekara was taken off the attack and brought in from the City End to take the best advantage of the wind. The move worked immediately as Asif Ali was dismissed after he poked his bat out to an away going delivery. Ali was looking good with his wristy 10-ball 10 run play.
Misbah, coming in to bat at No 4, couldn’t help but watch his teammates losing unnecessary wickets. Mahmood played a rash slog which took the top-edge and was easily pouched by Upul Tharanga, who ran to his left from mid-on.
In a rather uncharacteristic move in the seventh over, Misbah played a risky loft over long-off. Although it wasn’t timed well, the ball just managed to sail over the fielder positioned there and cross the boundary rope. He displayed more aggression against Siriwardana, who came in to bowl his second over, as he carted him for a four through the off and a huge straight six.
However, just when Faisalabad looked to regain control of the innings, Ajantha Mendis caught Khurram Shehzad in front of the stumps with a loopy wrong one to reduce them to 56 for four in less than 10 overs.
Following that, Misbah tried to take charge of of the innings. In company of Mohammad Salman, he added 74 runs for the fifth wicket in 52 balls.
He brought up his half-century in 41 deliveries. Following the 15th over, he started accelerating. He smashed a six and three consecutive boundaries off Suraj Randiv in the 16th over of the innings. He followed it up by scoring 16 runs in the next over off Nuwan Kulasekara.
Coming into the last over of the innings, Misbah was batting on 82. Eleven runs were scored off the final over and Misbah finished on 93.
Faisalabad Wolves 146 for 6 in 20 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 93*; Mohammad Salman 21; Dilhara Lokuhettige 3 for 21) beat Kandurata Maroons 136 for 7 in 20 overs (Kumar Sangakkara 44, Chamara Silva 25, Upul Tharanga 25; Ehsan Adil 3 for 26) by 10 runs.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)