New year, new PSL, new venue. Same old Lahore Qalandars. An unbalanced squad, curiously playing without a specialist spinner, began their fifth PSL campaign with a crushing five-wicket defeat at the hands of Multan Sultans. Shan Masood’s side had the composure to see off an early storm from Qalandars’ big hitting openers, fully cognizant that once Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn were removed, there was little meat on the bare bones the rest of the batting side comprised.
From 59 for 1 in 5.2 overs, Qalandars tumbled top 138 for 8 in their allotted 20, well below par in front of a Lahore crowd that was watching their home franchise for the very first time. They soon realised they hadn’t been missing much when the bowlers failed to trouble Multan too much in the run chase, Shan Masood’s composed 29-ball 38 anchoring his side towards the perfect in an edition where Multan brim with optimism.
Qalandars’ ineptitude should not detract from the glimpses of brilliance that Multan showed in this game. The experienced spin duo of Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi had combined figures of 8-0-45-2, while Moeen Ali chipped in with a couple of wickets in addition to a brief cameo. Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Irfan were effective at the start and the death, while two wickets from an ever-improving Mohammad Ilyas make him one of the bowlers to watch as this PSL season takes shape.
Multan were less convincing in the chase than they might have liked, with unforced errors giving Qalandars a peek back into the game on a couple of occasions. Moeen’s run out buoyed Qalandars, who were looking to Shaheen Afridi to provide them with an explosive start. His perfect yorker to castle James Vince was the ball of the day, but Rilee Rossouw did perfectly what Multan had bought him to do: guide the chase steadily and without dram, and even though Zeeshan Ashraf fell thanks to another run-out, the asking rate kept dipping. There was even time to dust off the old classic: a few lusty blows from Shahid Afridi who knocked off the winning runs.