Tahir hat-trick helps Multan breeze to victory

In stark contrast to Friday’s humdinger, Saturday’s early game was as damp a squib. Multan, the newest franchise, cruised to a nine-wicket victory thanks to an almighty collapse by Quetta Gladiators.

They lost their last five wickets for one run. Sohail Tanvir took two wickets in two balls to expose the tail, before Imran Tahir ripped through the last three wickets with the second hat-trick of the season. The target was 103, and there were no twists to be had.

Ahmed Shehzad and Kumar Sangakkara, the Multan openers, didn’t need to be explosive, and were experienced enough to know as much. Instead, they took the sting out of the game with a 66-run opening partnership. By that time, they required less than 40. At the end, Sangakkara, who reached yet another half-century, was there with Sohaib Maqsood, who hit the a six to seal the win.

Where the match was won

Spectacular as the Quetta collapse was, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Instead, it was borne of stifling, wily bowling by Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan in particular. No bowler allowed themselves to be a release valves, and as a result, even batsmen like Sarfraz Ahmed, who had occupied the crease for a while, never looked set. In the 15th over, with the run rate dropping and Quetta feeling the heat, Mohammad Nawaz, and then Sarfraz, looked to go after Tanvir. Both fell off consecutive deliveries, ripping out the middle order, and a total that looked like stagnating towards 135 was instead shot out for 102.

The men that won it

Mohammad Irfan, who is having a good tournament, excelled again with a superb opening spell. Exploiting the bounce and the angle across the right-hander, he kept the batsman on a leash during the Powerplay, conceding a mere 27 runs in his four-over spell. He was also responsible for the wicket of Mahmudullah, who replaced Kevin Pietersen, and instrumental in squeezing the life out of the Quetta innings. The wickets may have ended up going to Tahir and Tanvir, but one would be amiss to discount Irfan’s part in them.

The hat-trick

Saturday produced the tournament’s third hat-trick and the second this season, both going to Multan. Tahir, already the leading wicket-taker, stepped up with Quetta seven down. Hasan Khan and John Hastings were clean bowled, before Rahat Ali was trapped plumb in front. He took a review, for no reason other than that it was there, but it merely delayed Tahir’s jaunty celebrations.

Where they stand Multan join Karachi at the top of the table with seven points, while Quetta, having won just two of their five games, drop down to fifth place and are stuck on four points.