HBL PSL 2024: Ton-up Babar makes the difference as Zalmi prevail despite Azam blitz

Published February 27, 2024
PESHAWAR Zalmi captain Babar Azam plays a shot as Islamabad United wicket-keeper Azam Khan looks on during their Pakistan Super League match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday.—AFP
PESHAWAR Zalmi captain Babar Azam plays a shot as Islamabad United wicket-keeper Azam Khan looks on during their Pakistan Super League match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday.—AFP

LAHORE: Babar Azam knew he had to lead the charge for his team and on Monday, he showed a different side to his game. Never the player who goes for unconventional extravagance that has become the hallmark of the Twenty20 game, the Peshawar Zalmi skipper showed he can mix flair with his finesse.

The crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium, which chanted the name of their homegrown superstar every time he faced the ball, was witnessing Babar version 2.0. Even Zalmi coach Darren Sammy shook his head with a wry smile at what he was seeing.

Just days after a video went viral in which Babar was seen reacting angrily towards fans who shouted ‘ZimBabar’; a moniker given to him on social media for scoring big runs against less illustrious opposition like Zimbabwe, the former Pakistan captain showed he can do it all.

Babar had seen his partners fall one after the other and Zalmi’s hopes rested on him to provide the final flourish after they had been put into bat by Islamabad United.

Having launched Nase­em Shah for a six down the ground in the previous over, the right-hander, known for his elegance, cut loose in the 18th bowled by rookie Hunain Shah. Babar moved across the stumps and carted the ball for four over fine leg before hitting a six on the second ball.

The third ball met the same treatment as the first, Babar once again finding the fine-leg rope. He would smash two more boundaries off the next two balls to mo­ve closer to his century and drive Zalmi towards 200.

Babar had completed his half-century off 39 balls but moved to 99 off 57 when he cut away Tymal Mills for four to start the 18th over and then jumped for joy by bringing up his ton two balls later.

The best, and perhaps the most outrageous, of his 14 fours was probably his last, which came off the penultimate delivery when he shaped to paddle but adjusted late to dab it away to the point boundary.

Babar finished with a majestic 111 not out of 63 balls, helping Zalmi post 201-5 — a target that proved beyond United despite the best efforts of Azam Khan (75) and Colin Munro (71), who pulled their side close but departed in an explicable late collapse.

In the end, Babar’s ton, and his late acceleration, proved crucial. His decision to turn to spinner Arif Yaqoob to bowl the penultimate over also proving decisive as the spinner picked up four wickets off those six balls to finish with 5-27 as United fell short by eight runs in a game they seemingly had in the bag and have now lost three in a row.

Zalmi, on the other hand, have now won three on the bounce after opening the HBL Pakistan Super League season with a pair of losses.

They got off to a fast start against United; Saim Ayub, opening with Babar, following his 88 a day earlier against Lahore Qalandars, hitting a brisk 38 off 21, featuring three fours and two sixes — one of them a no-look hit off Tymal Mills.

But after the 77-run opening stand was broken, Saim missing a sweep off Agha Salman to see his stumps shattered, Zalmi lost two more for the addition of just five runs; Shadab Khan getting both the wickets in one over.

The United captain first held on to sharp return on the second attempt to send back Mohammad Haris and then trapped Haseebullah Khan lbw.

Zalmi endured a 28-ball boundary drought which was duly ended by Babar, who raised his half-century in the 13th over.

But after Paul Walter (19) was run out after a mix-up in the middle and Rovman Powell didn’t last long, Babar provided a grandstand finish to the innings with Asif Ali chipping in with an unbeaten 17 off nine balls.

United started the chase with purpose and reached 32 when opener Jordan Cox (13) missed a slower one by Luke Wood and saw the ball crash into his stumps.

But Cox’s opening partner Munro stayed defiant in the face of falling wickets. Shadab departed after miscuing spinner Arif Yaqoob to Saim, who hit back with venom to dismiss Agha Salman, who had hit him for a six and four off the previous two deliveries.

Having arrived with United in a spot of bother at 73-3 halfway through the 10th over, Azam provided a twist in the tale. With a sensational display of power-hitting, and with able support from Munro, he was looking to take his side over the line.

In a remarkable 30-ball blitz, he smashed a whopping six sixes and seven fours, putting away the Zalmi bowlers to all parts with utter disdain.

Munro also got on the act, hitting seven fours and a six in his 53-ball knock, and when Azam effortlessly hacked away Naveen-ul-Haq for six on the fifth ball of the 18th over, United looked primed to finish off the contest with 21 more runs required off 13 balls.

Azam, however, fell on the last ball of that over as he tried to go big down the ground, setting the stage for the drama at the end.

Munro tried to hit Arif out of the park the very next ball and ended up getting stumped and Babar jumped for joy two balls later when Haider Ali holed out in the deep. Arif would finish with two wickets on the last two balls of his spell as Faheem Ashraf’s revese sweep went straight to the fielder and Hunain was pouched by Powell.

United required 19 off the last over and although Naseem slammed Salman Irshad for six off the second ball, Babar completed the win for his side by taking the catch to see the end of Imad Wasim with two balls to go.

SCOREBOARD

PESHAWAR ZALMI:

Batters & modes of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR

Saim Ayub b Salman 38 21 3 2 180.95

Babar Azam not out 111 63 14 2 176.19

Mohammad Haris c&b Shadab 2 3 0 0 66.66

Haseebullah Khan lbw b Shadab 0 3 0 0 0.00

Paul Walter run out (Shadab) 19 13 2 0 146.15

Rovman Powell c Azam b Naseem 8 8 1 0 100.00

Asif Ali not out 17 9 2 0 188.88

EXTRAS (LB-4, W-2) 6

TOTAL (for five wickets, 20 overs) 201

DID NOT BAT: Luke Wood, Naveen-ul-Haq, Arif Yaqoob, Salman Irshad

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-77 (Saim), 2-80 (Haris), 3-80 (Haseebullah), 4-114 (Walter), 5-124 (Powell)

BOWLING: Naseem 4-0-32-1, Salman 4-0-25-1, Imad 1-0-17-0, Mills 2-0-30-0 (1w), Shadab 4-0-28-2, Hunain 3-0-36-0 (1w), Faheem 2-0-29-0

ISLAMABAD UNITED:

Batters & modes of dismissals R B 4s 6s SR

Jordan Cox b Wood 13 10 1 0 130.00

Colin Munro st Haseebullah b Arif 71 53 7 1 133.96

Shadab Khan c Saim b Arif 6 8 0 0 75.00

Salman Ali Agha c Haris b Saim 14 8 1 1 175.00

Azam Khan c Babar b Naveen 73 30 7 5 243.33

Haider Ali c Haris b Arif 0 1 0 0 0.00

Faheem Ashraf c sub (Mousley) b Arif 1 2 0 0 50.00

Imad Wasim c Babar b Salman 1 3 0 0 33.33

Hunain Shah c Powell b Arif 0 1 0 0 0.00

Naseem Shah not out 7 2 0 1 350.00

Tymal Mills not out 1 1 0 0 100.00

EXTRAS (LB-3) 3

TOTAL (for nine wickets, 20 overs) 193

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-32 (Cox), 2-50 (Shadab), 3-73 (Salman), 4-181 (Azam), 5-181 (Munro), 6-182 (Haider), 7-183 (Faheem), 8-183 (Hunain), 9-191 (Imad)

BOWLING: Saim 3-0-24-1, Wood 4-0-37-1, Naveen 4-0-39-1, Arif 4-0-27-5, Walter 1-0-9-0, Salman 4-0-52-1

RESULT: Peshawar Zalmi won by eight runs.

PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Babar Azam

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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