RAWALPINDI (APP): Fakhar Zaman punished Islamabad United for letting him off twice by belting a swashbuckling century that earned defending champions Lahore Qalandars a place in the 15 March HBL PSL 8 Qualifier in Lahore with a thumping 119 runs victory in front of another full-house at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, late Thursday.

Fakhar made the best of the dropped catches at two (by Asif Ali off Hasan Ali) and 72 (by Hasan Ali off Shadab Khan) to score 115, his second HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) century, as Lahore Qalandars posted 226 for five after electing to bat first.

Islamabad United, which has already qualified for the play-offs, had no chance against a world-class Lahore Qalandars bowling attack after they managed 50 for two in the PowerPlay overs before Rashid Khan ran through the middle-order on way to figures of four for 21 as the home side was bowled out for 107 in 15.1 overs with Azam Khan absent hurt after injuring his left hand while keeping wickets.

The 119-run defeat was the heaviest in the history of HBL PSL, while it was Lahore Qalandars’ second successive victory over Islamabad United by a margin of over 100 runs. The champions had recorded a 110-run victory at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Lahore Qalandars’ opponent on 15 March at the Gaddafi Stadium will be decided on Sunday in Rawalpindi when Islamabad United will take on Peshawar Zalmi at 2 p.m. Meanwhile, Friday’s winner between Peshawar Zalmi and Multan Sultans will become the third side to qualify for the play-off, with the winner of Quetta Gladiators and Multan Sultans match in Rawalpindi on Saturday will complete the play-offs line-up.

Returning to their tested and successful winning formula of batting first, Lahore Qalandars lost an in-form Abdullah Shafique on the third ball before Fakhar Zaman and Kamran Ghulam stitched a 122-run second-wicket partnership off 62 balls to put the defending champions back on track.

The partnership ended when Kamran perished after scoring a 30-ball 41 with four fours and two sixes. At that stage, Fakhar found another depending ally in Sam Billings as the two batters added 70 off 43 for the third wicket. Lahore Qalandars did well to collect 72 runs in the final five overs after they were 122 for one at the halfway stage.

The star of Lahore Qalandars’ imposing 226 for five was Fakhar Zaman, who destroyed Islamabad United bowlers with his trademark and signature shots to walk away with the player of the match award.

Fakhar, who was dropped on the fourth ball he faced by Asif Ali in the first slip, drove elegantly, pulled convincingly, and slog-swept emphatically to send Islamabad United bowlers on a never-ending leather hunt.

Fakhar’s 57-ball 115 included eight fours and eight sixes. His first 50 runs came off 24 balls with six fours and two sixes, while his second 50 runs came off 26 balls with two fours and four sixes. It required an excellent catch by Mohammad Wasim at deep backward square leg off Hasan Ali to terminate Fakhar’s onslaught that thoroughly entertained an excited and jubilant crowd.

Fazalhaq Farooqi, who dismissed Abdullah Shafique in the first over, added the scalps of Billings and David Wiese to finish with figures of three for 40.

In their chase, Islamabad United started aggressively but it was a very brief period where they looked like in some sort of control. The dismissal of Rahmanullah Gurbaz (15) and Colin Munro (11) off Zaman Khan inside the PowerPlay with Azam Khan unavailable to bat meant it was just the delay of the inevitable.

Wrist spinner Rashid Khan sealed Islamabad United’s fate when he accounted for Shadab Khan (12), Mubasir Khan (3), Asif Ali (7) and Faheem Ashraf 4) before Haris Rauf returned to account for Hasan Ali (18) and Mohammad Wasim (8) to wrap up a comfortable win for the title-favourites.

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