Doha (Qatar), March 19 Asian Lions beat the Indian Maharaja with an all-around clinical performance to claim a landslide victory of 85 runs in the knockout round to enter the Legends Cricket at the Asia City Cricket Stadium (LLC) Masters Finals, here.
Batting first, the Asian Lions racked up a staggering five-ball 191 run in 20 overs before beating the Indian Maharaja with a paltry 106 in 16.4 overs. The India Maharajas supporters had nothing to cheer about except their skipper Gautam Gambhir’s graceful 32 runs.
The creators of the Asian Lions’ victory were opener Upul Tharanga, who struck 50 off 31 balls with seven boundaries and six runs, while his partner Tillakaratne Dilshan hit 27 runs. Together, they built an 83-point partnership in 8.5 overs, setting the stage for Saturday night’s huge total.
The Asian Lions take on the World Giants in the title game on Monday.
The Asian Lions won the toss and were elected as batsmen. Openers Tharanga and Dilshan got off to a slow start but their power grew with each game. Apart from Irfan Pathan’s flawed second ball, which caused five balls to go wide when keeper Robin Uthappa also failed to collect the ball, all his other deliveries were spot on. Ashok Dinda played too tight and conceded just five runs. The first aggressive shot came from Tharanga, who lifted Pathan’s fourth over of the third ball to six in a row, and the next ball was the boundary line to long range.
Tharanga hit Yusuf Pathan, who was introduced in the fourth, with two consecutive boundaries on the first two balls through extra cover. He also hit a fourth ball to drive another boundary into deep cover and a final ball that hit another boundary over the halfway line to finish with 18 points.
What followed was a fantastic battle to dominate the bowling. Stuart Binny replaced the costly Yusuf Pathan, while Dilshan, second fiddle behind Tharanga, hit his first boundary with a graceful flick. The opening pair scored 58 using powerplay, with Tharanga scoring 40 at full speed and Dilshan 10.
Harbhajan Singh gave up 12 runs in the eighth inning. Tharanga finished his half-century off 30 balls and came off Pragyan Ojha’s next ball, brilliantly caught by Mohammad Kaif off extra cover. The nimble Kaif dived at full length and caught the ball with one hand, proving he still stands as one of India’s best outfielders.
The next man, Mohammad Hafiz, punished Harbhajan for two boundaries with the first and third deliveries – the first a cut over the third and the second a draw to the deep mid-wicket. At halftime, the Asian Lions led 94-1.
Ojha struck again in the 11th over, allowing Dilshan to go straight into the hands of Suresh Raina in the long over for 27. Asghar Afghan hit his first ball against Ojha for six straight runs in the long overs. Hafiz also hit Harbhajan’s last ball in the 12th inning, also for six by sweeping a deep square leg slam. He also hit Ojha’s last ball in the 11th inning for six runs in a row.
Pravin Tambe, who was introduced as an impact player in place of Harbhajan Singh, won in the 14th over. He only lost by four points. Irfan Pathan reappeared in the 15th inning, playing tighter and only throwing three runs. At the end of the 16th innings, although Hafiz snatched the first ball from Tambe for 6, he got another brilliant catch by Kaif on the third ball for 38. Kaif ran left to long range and another diving catch ended Hafiz’s knock for 24 balls, two fours and three sixes.
Thisara Perera picked up the pace and hit Irfan Pathan on the fourth ball of the 17th inning for a powerful long shot over six to lead the Asian Lions past 150 runs. Pereira also hit Binny for six in the 18th inning. Asghar then hit Tinda in the 19th inning for a shot six over half-time. Binny’s first ball in the final round was six overs by Perera, but he fell to the next ball, allowing Kaif to catch his third in the long over. Abdul Razzaq also went down, pulling Binny to Yusuf Pathan for 2 runs. The Asian Lions have taken 58 runs in their last five games, conceding a total of three wickets and are nine short of the 200-run mark.
In response, the Indian Maharaja began chasing Gambier, free to strike. He hit Sohail Tanvir’s third and final pitch, first out of bounds — first over the screen, and the next with exquisite timing. It was a treat to watch Gambhir pick two more boundaries from Abdur Razzak. On his second delivery, he hit the ball to the center post, and on the fourth, he leaned back and cut gracefully into the post.
Uthappa added to Razzak’s fourth-inning slugging, scoring two consecutive boundaries. Hafiz broke through with the second ball of the fourth period, and Gambier was caught for 32 by Misbaul Haq on extra cover. His 17 pitches had seven boundaries. Uthappa on the 15th ran out after being sent back by Kaif. Indian Maharaja 2-60 at the end of the power game.
Runs started to drop, with Hafiz conceding just four runs in the seventh, while Shahid Afridi opted for Kraft’s wicket, which was caught by Pereira for 14 in the long overs, in the Only two points were dropped in that game.
Pereira caught again from long distance to clear Yusuf Pathan, who lasted just 10 balls for nine before losing to Mohammad Hafeez ). In the 13th innings, half of the Indian Maharajas batsmen came back to the bench for 91 in 12.4 overs when Irfan Pathan bowled 3 balls at Dilshan.
In the 15th inning, Tanveer sent consecutive balls. First, he removed Suresh Raina, bowling cleanly for 18, and then bowled Stuart Binny cleanly for a solid grip on the game. In the 16th innings, Razak also beat Ashok Tinda by 2 runs and allowed Manvinder Bisla to be knocked down by keeper Talanga for 8 runs. Udana cleared Tambe with a duck in the next over to book his side’s place in the final.
Brief scores: Asian Lions 191 5 20 (Upul Tharanga 50, Mohammad Hafeez 38, Tillakaratne Dilshan 27; Stuart Binny 2 38, Pragyan Ojha 2 26) beat Indian Maharajas 106 in 16.4 overs (Gautam Gambhir 32; Mohammad Hafeez 21 for 2; Sohail Tanvir 25 for 2) ran 85 runs.
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