Raipur: Muhammad Hafeez led from the front with a blazing 67 as Lahore Lions trounced Sri Lankan side Southern Express by 55 runs in their penultimate Oppo Champions League Twenty20 qualifier, keeping their main-draw hopes alive, here today.
Put into bat, Hafeez smashed a 40-ball 67 to power the Pakistan T20 champions to 164 for six in 20 overs. In reply, Express never really got going as the Lahore bowlers turned on the heat to pack the Lankans for 109 in 18 overs.
Medium-pacer Aizaz Cheema (3-15) was the destroyer-in-chief as Lahore, who won their second of the three qualifying matches, find themselves competing with Mumbai Indians for a spot in the main event.
Earlier, the Lahore openers provided a brisk start as the they managed 40 runs in the powerplays. Left-handed opener Umar Siddiq though lost his wicket in the last delivery of the sixth over while trying to dab at a rising Farveez Maharoof
(3-28) bouncer and was caught behind for 18.
Maharoof continued the good work by sending back Ahmed Shehzad (29 off 21 balls) and Nasir Jamshed (1) in one over to stop the Lahore surge.
If Shehzad, who was looking dangerous till then, tried a silly-looking 'dilscoop' against Maharoof then Jamshed was guilty of fishing on an away-going delivery to be caught at slip.
Saad Nasim (31) and Hafeez, registering his 22nd T20 fifty, then stuck it out to stitch a superb 75-run fourth-wicket partnership that gave Lahore the perfect platform to finish off on a high in the final overs.
After playing the waiting game between overs 10 and 15, Hafeez cut loose in the 16th over as leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna (0-35) came at the wrong end of the stick.
Hafeez hit a boundary and three straight sixes to help the side get 25 runs in the over. Nasim, though, fell to Charith Jayampathi (1-45) in the 17th over after trying a hit over long on, but was instead caught by Ishan Jayaratne.
Joined in by Umar Akmal (11 not out), Hafeez continued his aggressive play, hitting fours and sixes, to help the side fetch 75 runs from the last five overs.
Medium-pacer Jayaratne (1-29) finally got Hafeez out in the final over of the innings but the damage was already done.
With Wahab Riaz (1) also run out in the final over, Lahore could bag just 9 from the 20th over. For Express, captain Jehan Mubarak top-scored with 35 runs as the rest of the batting did not show much fight.
Sharing the new ball with Hafeez (1-26), Cheema broke Express' back with three early wickets and the Sri Lankan unit could never really rise from there. Cheema got Kusan Perera caught behind for 18 and cleaned up Danushka Gunathilaka on nought to be on a hat-trick in the fourth over of the innings.
Trapping Tillakaratne Sampath lbw for 18 and Express were in trouble. Mubarak and Angelo Perera then tried to bail the team out of trouble with a 44-run fourth-wicket partnership but off-spinner Adnan Rasool (2-32) got the Express captain back
in the dug-out in the 12th over.
There was no respite for Express as Rasool struck again after a delivery to clean up Maharoof for a duck.
Left-arm pacer Riaz (2-20) then struck twice in the very next over to flatten Express' chances by sending back Perera and Prasanna (4).
Medium-pacer Imran Ali (1-14) also joined the party as he cleaned up Dilruwan Perera (3) in the 15th over.
Hafeez, who could do no wrong in the evening, then got Ishan Jayaratne out for 18 and and Lakshan Rangika was run out via a Riaz-Akmal combination as Express bowed out of the competition after an embarassing third loss in the qualifiers.