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Munro and company upstage breathtaking Usman ton to steer United to playoffs

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RAWALPINDI: It was pure ultra-excitement as every fan remained on the edge of their seats till the very last ball of the match.

A boisterous full house at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Sunday witnessed the peak of thrill when Imad Wasim smashed the boundary on the final ball to give Islamabad United a richly earned three-wicket victory over Multan Sultans in a high-scoring encounter of the HBL Pakistan Super League. More importantly, the adventure-filled triumph sent the United into the playoffs where table toppers Sultans have already reached.

The herculean effort — of overhauling 229 — completed by Shadab Khan-led United was the third highest successful chase in the PSL history, and the biggest of the ongoing season. The record chase (243) was made by the Sultans against Peshawar Zalmi at the same venue during PSL 8 during which Quetta Gladiators overhauled 241, the second highest-ever of the league, against Zalmi also in Rawalpindi.

Requiring 13 off the final over bowled by Abbas Afridi, United lost the wicket of Faheem Ashraf (23 off 14 balls), after striking a boundary through the covers, was caught by David Willey at long-on while attempting a big shot.

Needing eight off three balls, incoming Naseem Shah then took a vital single to give strike back to left-handed Imad who lifted Abbas for a straight six on the penultimate ball. As scores were now level, thrill as at the climax. Imad played the winning shot —cracking a full-toss on middle-stump for a four past a mid-off fielder. The batter’s 13-ball 30 featuring four fours and a six was the decisive factor in the game.

Shadab and opener Colin Munro had set the foundation for the United earlier with a 141-run partnership off 64 balls for the third wicket — the third-highest stand of PSL 9. The fourth over of the innings yielded 19 runs for the Uni­ted who, after had lost their first two wickets for just four in the second over, managed to reach 65-2 in the powerplay.

Opener Alex Hales was sent back for a golden duck on the first ball of the opening over by paceman Willey as the batter edged a wide ball outside the off-stump to wicket-keeper Usman Khan. Number three Agha Salman (two) was caught and bowled in the second over as Mohammad Ali took a superb one-handed catch in his follow-through.

Looking in a typically devastating mood, southpaw Munro cruised to a scintillating 84 off only 40 balls with the aid of nine fours and five sixes and was rightly given the player-of-the-match award. Shadab struck six fours and a couple of maximums on his way to 54 from 31.

At 145-2, Abbas thumped the United with two quick wickets in the 13th over. First, Shadab was caught by Willey at long-off while Azam Khan (naught) was cleaned up by a beauty of a good-length delivery that rattled the middle-stump.

The United received the biggest jolt in the 14th over, bowled by Chris Jordan, when Munro while trying to steer the ball outside off was caught by Usman. They still needed 72 off the last six overs.

Haider Ali (19 off 13, four fours) played a useful cameo before being bowled by Ali. Faheem and Imad added a crucial 40-run stand to keep the United in the hunt and the latter’s impressive handling of pressure till the last moment helped the team get over the line.

Abbas took three wickets for 40 while Ali picked up a couple for 44. On the other hand, leg-spinner Usama Mir proved extremely expensive conceding 68 runs.

Earlier, the Mohammad Rizwan-captained Sultans after being sent in to bat posted a massive total courtesy young Usman’s breathtaking knock of 100 not out.

The 50-ball thunderous innings — laced with 15 fours anmd three sixes — was the right-hander’s second hundred of the ongoing PSL.

Openers Rizwan and Yasir Khan provided a 44-run stand, which was broken by Hunain Shah cleaned up Yasir (33 off 16) with a magnificent ball that held its line and hit the off-stump in the fifth over. Yasir smashed four boundaries and two sixes.

Soon after dangerman Usman joined Rizwan (20 from 17 balls), the skipper was trapped right in front by medium pacer Faheem as the batter tried to play a fast ball on the middle-stump across the line as the Sultans ended the powerplay at 58-2.

Usman then became belligerent while sharing an 86-run partnership with Johnson Charles (42 off 18, three fours, three sixes). The Sultans after reaching 144-2 in the 14th over, suffered the loss of Charles who while attempting an upper cut just outside off-stump off Faheem was caught by wicket-keeper Azam.

The 28-year-old Usman, meanwhile, kept hitting strokes freely all around the ground. The batter in the 12th over by Shadab smashed a six over midwicket followed by back-to-back fours. Sensibly building his innings, Usman made 38 runs off 25 balls before launching the onslaught — 62 off the next 25.

While Iftikhar Ahmed (13 off 12 balls) and Jordan (15 not out off seven) made sure the Sultans reach a huge total.

Faheem finished with 2-32 in three overs, Naseem Shah took one for 31 runs and Hunain conceded 29 in two overs and got one wicket. Tymal Mills and Shadab proved highly costly, giving 52 runs each.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2024

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