If Lahore Qalandars’ thrashing of Islamabad United the first time these sides met this season read like an aberration, Qalandars gave them another one, just for good measure. In an imperious performance that consolidates their credentials as the favourites to retain this title, United were swept aside with disdain in Rawalpindi by 119 runs. It is the heaviest defeat inflicted on any side in PSL history.
After 240 hadn’t proved enough for Peshawar Zalmi the previous night, Lahore’s decision to bat first was intrepid, but showed the faith they place in their bowlers, even on a surface like this. The start was wobbly, though, with Abdullah Shafique squeezed down leg in the first over. Crucially, Asif Ali dropped Fakhar Zaman when he was on one, and even as early as that in the game, it was a sliding doors moment.
After a tight couple of overs, Fakhar walloped Fazalhaq Farooqi for three boundaries, before plundering 16 in Faheem Ashraf’s first over. Despite Kamran Ghulam struggling for rhythm at the other end, he only needed to keep turning the strike over, and Fakhar was happy to do the damage. By the end of the powerplay, Lahore were up to 65.
But they knew they needed a huge score against a batting line-up like United’s, and they kept going. Fakhar took apart Shadab Khan in a seminal moment of the contest, while Ghulam came to life against Mubasir Khan. And Fakhar continued the onslaught against the United captain in a passage of play where 49 runs came off 14 balls, and the run rate ballooned.
The notion almost seems quaint now, but on a Pindi surface that has helped batters out to the extent it has this week, the game wasn’t over then. After seeing off Shaheen Afridi’s first over respectfully, the United machine began to whirr, taking 27 runs off the two following overs.
Shadab Khan struck one six off him before the Afghan hit back, a top edge removing the United captain cheaply once more. The wickets were falling in clumps now; David Wiese soon got rid of Alex Hales as he miscued a slice right at the keeper. Islamabad United’s own keeper, and middle order talisman Azam Khan, was unavailable following a finger injury he’d picked up in the first innings. In this kind of form, those are big shoes to fill, with the lower middle order hopelessly ill-equipped for the task against bowling of this quality.
That skill was crystallised in a glorious Rashid delivery to Mubasir Khan, drifting in around middle and whooshing past the outside edge to trim the outside of off stump. Faheem Ashraf was trapped dead in front, and by now an Islamabad mauling was inevitable. Rashid made it four wickets by cleaning up Asif Ali, and finishing with 4-21 on a surface every other batter had found to be a paradise.
Haris Rauf wrapped up the game with the final two wickets in a chastening evening at home for Islamabad to seal a top-two spot for his side. Both of these sides will go through to the playoffs, but on current evidence, the gap between them is a chasm.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000