Babar Azam and Naseem Shah starred for Colombo Strikers as they beat B-Love Kandy by 27 runs, to register their first win in Lanka Premier League (LPL) 2023 on Monday.
Choosing to bat first, Colombo Strikers encountered an early setback with the loss of their skipper Niroshan Dickwella for a mere 4 runs in the opening over. However, Babar Azam, who opened the innings alongside Dickwella, demonstrated his tenacity and determination, gradually finding his rhythm despite the loss of another wicket early on, with Pathum Nissanka being run out for 15.
Babar then found a reliable partner in Nuwanidu Fernando, and together they built a crucial 60-run partnership, providing much-needed stability to the Strikers’ innings. However, the dangerous Mohammad Hasnain eventually dismissed Fernando for 28, leaving Babar to anchor the innings.
Undeterred by the fall of wickets at the other end, Babar displayed remarkable resilience, reaching his half-century in 48 deliveries. With the end of the innings approaching, Babar attempted to accelerate the scoring, managing a couple of boundaries off Wanindu Hasaranga and Isuru Udana.
As the match progressed into the latter stages, Babar sought another big shot, but he mistimed it, resulting in a catch to Kamindu Mendis at long-on. Nonetheless, Babar’s gritty knock of 59 runs from 52 balls played a crucial role in guiding Colombo Strikers to a respectable total of 157/6 in their allotted 20 overs.
With a challenging target of 158 runs to defend, the Strikers’ bowlers took center stage. Naseem Shah delivered a devastating opening spell, striking gold in the very first over by dismissing Thanuka Dabare lbw for just 4 runs. Naseem wasn’t done yet as he clean bowled the dangerous Kamindu Mendis in his first ball of the third over, leaving the opposition stunned.
Alongside Naseem’s brilliance, Jeffrey Vandersay and Matheesha Pathirana chipped in with timely wickets, constantly denting Kandy’s chances of a successful chase. Furthermore, Mohammad Nawaz proved economical and accounted for the dismissal of Aamer Jamal, conceding only 18 runs in his four-over spell.
Despite a brief resistance from Sarfaraz Ahmed, who managed 16* runs from 21 balls, B-Love Kandy could only reach 130/8 in their 20 overs, falling 27 runs short of the target. Naseem Shah’s remarkable bowling performance, finishing with figures of 2/19, proved instrumental in securing Colombo Strikers’ maiden victory in LPL 2023.
Babar was declared the player of the match, marking his 20th Player of the Match award in T20 cricket.