KARACHI: This was less of a game, more of a template. Islamabad United have been playing this sort of match for eight years, and when it clicks, no side can quite match their explosiveness.
It clicked today in some style, with United blowing Peshawar Zalmi away by six wickets, coasting to the 157 they required inside 15 overs. Hasan Ali, returning to the side, was the star with the ball, taking three vital top order wickets to stymie Zalmi’s momentum. Then Rahmanullah Gurbaz stole the show with the bat, his 31-ball 62 seeing United post 80 in six overs, the highest Powerplay total at this year’s PSL.
United won the toss and bowled, but for the first six overs, Zalmi were the only ones doing the winning. Mohammad Haris and Babar Azam took the attack to the new ball, and when they thumped Hasan for 17 in his first over, there was no indication his day would turn around. For six overs, there was a contrast in styles between Babar’s silky elegance and Haris’ raw power, but the impact they had in terms of run-scoring was strikingly similar. When the fielding restrictions ended, Haris had romped to 35 off 17, while Babar’s 34 had taken 19 deliveries.
Shadab removed Haris in his first over, and Mubasir Khan cleaned up Saim Ayub with a flipper, but thereafter it was the Hasan show. Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Rovman Powell had their stumped rocked back with almost identical deliveries in a match-turning 10th over. There was a new, edgy send-off from Hasan to each batter as they went on their way, and United had pulled things back superbly. Jimmy Neesham fell in Hasan’s next over, and before long, Babar, having watched the drama happen from the other end, was forced to take matters into his own hands.
He did as much as he could, but Zalmi needed a power hitter, and that’s not an aspect of the game Babar excels at. He farmed the strike and tried to find the boundaries, but couldn’t quite manage enough to give his side the big finish they needed against a fearsome batting line-up. The 156 they finished with felt well short.
Gurbaz and Rassie van der Dussen guaranteed that it would be. There wasn’t much strike rotation, with Gurbaz looking for boundaries as often as possible. Gurbaz was clearing the fences with raw power while van der Dussen played arguably an even more infuriating innings from Zalmi’s perspective, manipulating the field craftily with reverse sweeps and finding the ropes with imperious frequency. No over in the first six saw fewer than 10 runs scored, and by the time the Powerplay ended, the asking rate was well under a run a ball. (Cricinfo)