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Badshahs bowlers key to victory

Twenty20 cricket is normally considered tailor-made for batsmen, but for a change it was the bowlers who came out trumps in the ICL 20-20 Indian Championship match between Ahmedabad Rockets and Lahore Badshahs at Sardar Patel Stadium.

Ahmedabad on Sunday night. However, in a low-scoring match, the Badshahs defeated the Rockets by 31 runs to register their first win of the tournament.

The Badshahs' were asked to bat first by Rockets' captain Damien Martyn and scored 136 for 9 in their allotted 20 overs as the "home team"'s spin bowlers had the Pakistani batsmen in all sorts of trouble. Martyn used his pace bowlers for only six of the 20 overs as the spin bowlers -- Kalia, S Sriram, Bhima Rao (2-29) and P Aziz (3-16) -- bowled 14 overs between them and conceded only 78 runs between themselves and picked up eight wickets.

Though opening batsmen Imran Nazir and Imran Farhat gave the Badshahs a good start, the duo never looked comfortable in the middle. Farhat (18), especially was edgy during his stay in the middle and used the long handle to good effect, but his luck ran out when Martyn took a good catch off Jason Gillespie, with the score at 28 in the third over.

Nazir and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan then added 34 runs for the second wicket to give their team a fair hope of putting together a sizable total, and just when the going appeared to be good, the latter was stumped off Sumit Kalia's bowling. Naved-ul-Hasan made 15 before returning to the dugout, and after his dismissal, with the exception of Khalid Mahmood who top scored with 27, none of the other Badshahs' batsmen put up a fight before succumbing to the guiles of the Rockets's spinners led by Kalia.

Kalia, who took 3-19 in his four overs, also dismissed Shahid Yousuf and Nazir (25) of successive balls to reduce the Badshahs to 72 for 4 after 10 overs. Aziz then got rid of Naved Latif and Khalid Mahmood in the 17th over, and captured his third wicket in the 19th over when Badshahs' stand-in captain Azhar Mahmood holed out to Gillespie on the boundary line. Not to be left behind, P Bhima Rao took the wickets of Tahir Mughal and Mohammad Sami in the last over of the innings.

The Rockets' run chase never got going as they lost wickets at regular intervals in the face of some intelligent bowling by the Badshahs' bowlers led by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and some outstanding captaincy by Azhar Mahmood, who was leading the side in place of the injured Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Azhar Mahmood used six bowlers and all of them were among the wickets, with Saqlain (3-26) being the most successful. Naved-ul-Hasan and Shahid Nazir picked up two wickets each, while Azhar Mahmood, Mohammad Sami and Tahir Mughal shared three wickets between themselves as the Rockets were bowled out for 105 in 19.1 overs.

P Aziz, who top scored with 26 was the only batsman from the Rockets to make more than 20 runs, and he also featured in the highest partnership of the innings -- 23 for the fifth wicket with Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

Ahmedabad Rockets would be hoping to put in an improved performance when they play Royal Bengal Tigers on October 22, while Lahore Badshahs will be looking to make it two wins in a row when they take on Mumbai Champs on october 23.

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