Rahmanullah Gurbaz was on song. It seemed as if the Afghanistan opener was celebrating being back at the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) after fulfilling national duty.
The explosive right-hander plundered the Peshawar Zalmi bowlers for 62 runs off just 31 balls to help Islamabad United bounce back from their defeat against Multan Sultans to beat Peshawar Zalmi by six wickets at the National Stadium in Karachi on Thursday.
United chased down the 157-run target in less than 15 overs after Hasan Ali’s fiery pace spoiled Zalmi’s solid start.
Gurbaz started off with two boundaries off pacer Arshad Khan before belting Wahab Riaz for as many sixes over the leg-side boundary.
His partner Colin Munro also got going with a six over midwicket off Arshad but was cleaned up by a straight and fast delivery by the right-arm.
Gurbaz was unfazed by his partner’s dismissal and welcomed Jimmy Neesham with another towering six, this time cleaning the long-on boundary before pulling the New Zealander for another.
Rassie van der Dussen joined the party with a reverse sweep and a slog for two fours off leg-spinner Usman Qadir before punishing a half- tracker for another.
Gurbaz dispatched Wahab with disdain through the covers for another boundary as United posted 80-1 by the end of the powerplay.
Van der Dussen swept Usman for another four in the next over before Gurbaz took on chinaman bowler Sufiyan Muqeem for two more boundaries before finding Tom Kohler-Cadmore in the deep off Usman.
Gurbaz’s dismissal was followed by that of Islamabad captain Shadab Khan, who had his stumps destroyed by Arshad.
United sent in Asif Ali ahead of Azam Khan, clearly indicating they wanted the game to be finished early by the former.
Asif dispatched Usman for sixes over cover and long off to start with before hooking Wahab for another boundary in the 13th over.
Van der Dussen was run out in the same over after scoring 42 off 29 but that did not affect Islamabad’s approach as Asif hit Arshad for a flat six over the square leg before Azam finished the match with another six with 31 balls to spare.
Sent in to bat earlier, Zalmi did get off to a flying start, thanks to a combination of Mohammad Haris’ power-hitting and Babar Azam’s elegance with the bat.
The duo had boosted Zalmi to 69-0 by the end of the powerplay, after which the pressure that they had mounted on United fizzled out and Hasan ran through Zalmi’s middle order, with the side hardly recovering and settling for a mediocre score.
After Haris and Babar managed a boundary each in Rumman Raees’ opening over, the former perfectly executed a lap shot against Hasan for another four and heaved the right-armer across the line for his first six.
Babar welcomed pacer Tom Curran with a flick of the wrists, timing the ball perfectly to find the gap on the leg-side boundary before playing an exquisite lofted shot against Faheem Ashraf for his first six.
The right-hander followed up with two more boundaries off Faheem but saw Haris play Shadab back into the spinner’s hands after having scored 40 off 21.
First drop Saim Ayub, who had scored a blistering half-century against Multan Sultans, was undone by a quicker one by off-spinner Mubasir Khan that castled him.
It was then Hasan’s time to rattle the stumps as the pacer got Tom Kohler-Cadmore with an in-swinger that saw the bails flying the distance before uprooting Rovman Powell’s middle stump with another one that seamed in sharply.
But once Hasan came up against Babar, the batter showed his elegance with a signature, classical cover drive, only to see Neesham get caught behind off Hasan two balls later before bringing up his 50 in 33 balls.
Zalmi’s scoring rate was still slow and they were at 125-5 with 15 overs to go. But the side’s batters hardly showed any urgency afterward.
While Babar mostly looked to rotate strike at the fag end of the innings, his partners on the other end struggled to hit out.
It was only Wahab’s slap off the back foot against Tom Curran that saw the ball fly over the boundary for Zalmi as the side accumulated a target that hardly challenged United.
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