Islamabad United won a record-equalling sixth straight match of Pakistan Super League 2018, defeating Quetta Gladiators by six wickets at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
The Gladiators, after winning the toss, decided to bat first but the start to their innings was ordinary, if not disastrous. Both Shane Watson and Jason Roy departed early — setbacks due to which they had just 36 runs on the board after 6 overs.
The Amad Butt delivery that got rid of of Roy was particularly special. It pitched outside off but zipped in, disturbing the Englishman's stumps.
Kevin Pietersen was caught behind on the final ball of the seventh as the Gladiators' innings fast approached crisis mode.
The runs weren't flowing in the first place and the fall of wickets made them even slower. Halfway through their innings, the Gladiators were 60-3 and in desperate need for some inspiration from their captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man...and Sarfraz is a man made for crisis situations. The 11th over, bowled by part-timer Hussain Talat, saw 18 runs and three boundaries conceded — the latter all Sarfraz's doing.
Samit Patel, meanwhile, almost took one of the catches of the tournament in the 13th over — at the end of which, Quetta were 93-3.
The promising Umar Amin, who has a habit of never living up to his early promise, once again got out after doing the hard work. Hales took the catch, Butt took the wicket.
Sarfraz had hit a trio of fours in Talat's previous over. This time, however, the part-timer had his revenge, bowling out the Quetta skipper with a full toss of all the deliveries. He scored 43 off 30.
Faheem Ashraf who, by the way, had steadily sneaked his way to the top of PSL 2018's leading wicket-takers chart, added two more to his tally in the 17th over as Quetta's to post a sizable total petered out.
Rilee Rossouw and Hassan Khan did just enough that their side posted a 148-run target for the capital city side.
Islamabad opener Luke Ronchi's had been in scintillating form, with three 50s in his previous four outings. But his impressive run of form ended when Rahat Ali, after being dispatched for a 6 and a 4, bowled him out.
But those looking for a collapse a la Lahore Qalandars were left disappointed as the pairing of JP Duminy and Alex Hales carried on for Islamabad as if nothing happened. By the end of 5 overs, United, typically unfazed, were 45-1 and cruising.
The 2016 champions lost Hales in the 7th over but still carried on rather than sink like so many of their rivals do at the first sign of trouble.
Halfway through their innings, the Misbahul Haq-led side were 77-2 and needed just 71 runs off 60 balls.
Watson dismissed Shadab Khan in the 12th but United, as expected of them, did not fluster, taking the momentary setback in their strike and marching on towards their target.
Duminy may have struggled a little in his first few matches of PSL 2018 but he was now warmed-up and anchoring the United run chase. He brought up his 50 and the team's 100 in the 15th over.
In the same over, his fellow left-hander Hussain Talat hit a different kind of stroke but with the same result.
Talat teed up once more in the 16th as a victory for United seemed inevitable.
Duminy's 54-run innings came to an end in the 17th over, at which point United needed 19 off 19 with six wickets in hand.
They reached their target comfortably with six wickets and 10 balls to spare.
It was Islamabad's sixth straight win of PSL 2018, which equalled their own record from PSL 2016. They'll get a chance to set a new record when they face Karachi Kings on Friday.
Duminy was named the man of the match for his 47-ball 54.
Islamabad XI: A Hales, L Ronchi, JP Duminy, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Misbah-ul-Haq, S Patel, Shadab Khan, Amad Butt, Mohammad Sami
Quetta XI: J Roy, S Watson, U Amin, K Pietersen, R Rossouw, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Khan, Anwar Ali, Rahat Ali, Mir Hamza