KARACHI: After hitting Sohail Khan for an M.S. Dhoni’s signature “helicopter shot”, Afghan batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz maintained his pose for a few moments as the ball travelled over the midwicket boundary.
The pose symbolised Islamabad United’s utter dominance over Peshawar Zalmi as the former two-time champions kicked off the seventh edition of the HBL Pakistan Super League with a fabulous nine-wicket win.
Gurbaz, on the next ball, pulled Sohail for another maximum and followed it with a boundary off his hips.
At 160-1, Islamabad were cruising, with just nine more runs to win in five overs.
England opener Alex Hales finished the job with three fours off Ben Cutting in the next over, hammering a low full toss down the ground to finish it off in style and stay unbeaten at 82 off 54 balls with the help of 13 fours and a six.
It was the Irishman Paul Stirling (57 off 25), who set the tone from the word go after opening the United innings with Hales, in their pursuit of 169.
The right-hander smashed Zalmi skipper Wahab Riaz for four boundaries in the first over, putting the 2017 winners under pressure right away.
Stirling danced down the ground and sliced one over the in-field past the third-man boundary before plundering the veteran pacer for two more drives and a pull shot for four.
Sharing the new-ball with Wahab, Sohail Khan too was welcomed with hostility. Hales got lucky and he edged two off-stump deliveries for four before Stirling hit his first six, slashing it over point in merciless fashion.
United were 50-0 by the end of the third over and the first boundary-less over was the eighth, and by that time the Shadab Khan-led side were 99-0.
The partnership was broken when Stirling fell victim to a quick and accurate through by Wahab, placed on third man as the opener tried to take a quick single. He hit seven fours and four sixes.
With only 50 off 60 needed, Stirling’s departure wasn’t much of a problem for Hales and the incoming Gurbaz.
The duo stayed patient and continued to run between the wickets before Gurbaz (27 off 16) launched the onslaught on Sohail to carry United over the finish line with 25 balls to spare.
Zalmi must have been ruing their bad start after being put into bat.
Only three balls into the match, Hasan Ali struck for United when Zalmi’s English opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore attempted a cut, only to see the ball crash into his stumps after taking a thick inside edge.
Emerging Pakistan batter Haider Ali, who arrived after Kohler-Cadmore’s dismissal, hit Hasan for two fours in the same over. Zalmi’s other opener Yasir Khan welcomed medium-pacer Faheem Ashraf with another boundary in the next over, which ended with Haider playing an exquisite drive through the off-side for four.
Yasir hit two more boundaries when fast-bowler Mohammad Wasim was introduced into the attack but lost his wicket when Faheem got the better of him with a slower one two balls later.
Hussain Talat, who was the hero in Zalmi’s win in their opener against Quetta Gladiators, also played a soft shot off Faheem to lose his wicket after adding only two runs.
In came Zalmi skipper Shoaib Malik. The 39-year-old slapped Faheem for a cracking drive down the ground, only to see Haider playing on Shadab in the next over.
Joined by Sherfane Rutherford, Malik was looking to do some damage control and eventually help Zalmi post a respectable total.
With only 17 runs coming in the next four overs, including two boundaries for Rutherford, Malik cut young off-spinner Mubasir Khan for his second boundary, before ending the over with a big six over long-off.
Rutherford then brought back things under control for Zalmi in the 14th over, hitting Shadab for a six, a four and another six on the last three balls of the over.
The Guyanese stood strong and hit one over long-off, swept the next for a boundary and pulled the last ball over the long-leg boundary for another six.
Though Malik lost his wicket in the next over, when he was caught by Asif Ali at extra cover in an attempt to clear the in-field, he and Rutherford had put up a formidable partnership of 73 off 50 balls. Malik added 25 off 22 balls to the total.
In the remaining five and a half overs, Rutherford hit three fours, and a last-ball six, when he launched Hasan for a towering one over midwicket.
The left-hander remained unbeaten at 70 off 46 (seven fours and three sixes). Ben Cutting, who came in after Malik’s departure, played a cameo of 26 off 17 balls (four fours) before playing on Hasan onto his stumps. —Mir Shabbar Ali
Batsmen & mode of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR
Tom Kohler-Cadmore b Hasan 0 3 0 0 0.00
Yasir Khan c Shadab b Faheem 14 9 3 0 155.55
Haider Ali b Shadab 15 13 3 0 115.38
Hussain Talat c Asif b Faheem 2 9 0 0 22.22
Shoaib Malik c Asif b Wasim 25 22 2 1 13.63
Sherfane Rutherford not out 70 46 7 3 152.17
Ben Cutting b Hasan 26 17 4 0 152.94
Wahab Riaz not out 2 2 0 0 100.00
EXTRAS (LB-5, NB-1, W-8) 14
TOTAL (for six wkts, 20 overs) 168
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-0 (Kohler-Cadmore), 2-26 (Yasir Khan), 3-31 (Talat), 4-35 (Haider), 5-108 (Malik), 6-159 (Cutting)
DID NOT BAT: Sohail Khan, Pat Brown, Usman Qadir
BOWLING: Hasan 4-0-34-2 (1w); Faheem 4-0-23-2; Wasim 4-0-37-1(4w, 1nb); Shadab Khan 4-0-28-1 (2w); de Lange 3-0-29-0; Mubasir 1-0-12-0
Batsmen & mode of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR
Paul Stirling run out (Wahab) 57 25 7 3 228.00
Alex Hales not out 82 54 13 1 151.85
Rahmanullah Gurbaz not out 27 16 1 2 168.75
EXTRAS (B-5, W-1) 6
TOTAL (for one wkt, 15.5 overs) 172
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-112 (Stirling)
DID NOT BAT: Mubasir Khan, Azam Khan, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Marchant de Lange.
BOWLING: Wahab 3-0-22-0; Sohail 3-0-45-0; Usman 3-0-41-0; Brown 3-0-27-0; Hussain 2-0-13-0 (1w); Cutting 1.5-0-19-0
RESULT: Islamabad United won by nine wickets.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Paul Stirling (Islamabad United)
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza and Aleem Dar (Both Pakistan)
TV UMPIRE: Shozab Raza (Pakistan)
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed (Pakistan)
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2022