Mitchell Marsh played a captain's knock and saw his team through to victory © Getty Images (File Photo)
Mitchell Marsh played a captain’s knock and saw his team through to victory © Getty Images (File Photo)

By Freddie Wilde

Sep 30, 2014

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have qualified for the semi-final of the Champions League T20 2014  (CLT20) after the Lahore Lions were beaten by the Perth Scorchers by three wickets in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

The Lions went into the game needing to win by a large margin to elevate their Net Run Rate above CSK’s and after registering a below-par 124 from their 20 overs, the Lions had to restrict the Scorchers to just 78. The Pakistani side did have the Scorchers reeling at 40 for six and then 62 for seven before a superb unbeaten 63 from Mitchell Marsh with assistance from Brad Hogg in a 68-run partnership saw Perth home.

The Lions were up against it as soon as they lost the toss and were put into bat because defending any total minus 50 runs, as they had to do, is certainly more difficult than chasing any total in fewer overs.

Indeed, the Lions seemed confused from the outset as to how many to set with the large win required certainly dominating their strategy — as it should’ve been— despite captain Mohammad Hafeez’s protestations to the contrary at the toss.

Both Nasir Jamshed and Umar Siddiq fell for one, before Hafeez and pinch-hitter Wahab Riaz fell for ducks, leaving the Lions gutted at 11 for four. It was clear that they were going too hard, too early at the ball in pursuit of a huge target that defending 50-less of would be possible. It would arguably have been more sensible to have started proactively, but cautiously, before accelerating in the second half of the inning if only to be sure of at least having something of which 50-less of could be defended, as it was the Lions were rebuilding from the outset, and although Saad Nasim’s excellent 63 propelled Lahore to an okay score, having to restrict the Scorchers to 78 was asking too much of the bowlers. Greater caution and some more sensible batting could have got the Lions nearer 150—a target that would certainly have given Hafeez more options in the field and with bowling changes. As it was he was constrained massively—the importance of every ball and every run multiplied.

Lahore channeled the spirit of ’92 and Imran Khan in the field however. It was not so much cornered tigers and cornered lions as the men in orange spun their web around the Perth batsmen, pegging them back with wickets at regular intervals. But defending 78 was always going to be too much of a tough ask and it wasn’t surprising to see Lahore’s intensity plummet when Perth snuck past the magical number to send CSK through and Lahore out.

Generally Lahore can be very proud of their efforts in the Champions League. Only they and the Northern Knights have added interest and intrigue to a tournament otherwise dominated by Indian Premier League teams. The Lahore Lions top order batting let them down. Three times out of six Lahore lost more than three wickets in the powerplay overs leaving the likes of Umar Akmal, Nasim and the bowlers a lot of work; thankfully they responded.

The Lahore Lions have shown teams need not necessarily have players who play in the IPL, or players from outside the team’s own nation to succeed. The Lahore Lions may be volatile with the bat, occasionally lazy in the field and lackadaisical about practice but they’re entirely homegrown and they’ve lit up the Champions League T20. The nation of Pakistan should be proud of them.

Let this be a lesson to the organisers: Pakistani teams make the CLT20 better. Don’t exclude them again.

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 here

(Freddie Wilde is a freelance cricket writer. You can follow him @fwildecricket)