By AZ Aamir
KARACHI: Lewis Gregory’s all-round performance guided former two-time champions Islamabad United to a three-wicket win over Multan Sultans in their opening game of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021 here at National Stadium on Sunday night.
England’s Gregory (2-31) and Mohammad Wasim (3-29) restricted Multan Sultans to 150-7. Gregory then top-scored unbeaten 49 as Islamabad chased the target with six balls to spare.
From the last two overs Islamabad needed 20 runs. Gregory hit three fours and a six in the penultimate over from Sohail Tanvir which fetched 19 runs. In the last over from Sohaibullah Islamabad needed just one but the pacer bowled a wide ball which finished the game in favour of Islamabad with six balls to spare.
At one stage Islamabad were 74-6. However, Gregory added 43 for the seventh wicket stand with Faheem Ashraf (22) to keep Islamabad in the hunt. Faheem, who survived on 21, struck one six and two fours in his fiery 12-ball knock.
Gregory then dominated the 34-run eighth wicket unbeaten stand with Zafar Gohar (3*) to bring in the win.
Gregory hit six fours and one six in his 31-ball knock.
Carlos Brathwaite (2-23) and Shahid Afridi (2-24) bowled well.
Chasing a tricky total Islamabad lost Phil Salt (13) early, held by James Vince off Mohammad Umar, striking two fours. Shadab Khan (5) then joined Alex Hales but Brathwaite removed the former with a short-pitched delivery which the right-hander wanted to hit for a six but failed to clear the boundary and Rilee took a comfortable catch.
Shahid Afridi then claimed the crucial wicket of Alex Hales with a fine delivery which broke defences of the English batsman. Hales hit 20-ball 29, striking two sixes and two fours. And United were 55-3 after seven overs.
And Afridi again struck when he had dangerous Asif Ali (9), caught by James Vince at mid-on and Islamabad were 73-4 in the 11th over. In the same over Afridi ran out Iftikhar Ahmed (1) via a rocket return from his follow-through.
In the next over Khushdil Shah sent Hussain Talat (10) back to the pavilion to leave Islamabad gasping at 75-6 in the 12thover. And from there Gregory took the charge.
Earlier skipper Mohammad Rizwan hammered a superb 71 to help Multan Sultans set a 151-run target United. Rizwan carried his explosive form he had in the T20 series against South Africa recently into the PSL and hammered delightful strokes towards all corners of the ground.
Rizwan, who brought in his 50 off 31 deliveries, took the whole batting line-up along as he was involved in few crucial partnerships that enabled his side post a fighting total on a tricky pitch.
Rizwan added 48 runs for the second wicket stand with English batsman James Vince who fell for 17-ball 16 which had one six and one four. Rizwan, who hit eight fours and two sixes in his 53-ball knock, then added 35 for the third wicket association with South African batsman Rilee Rossouw who belted a brisk 14-ball 25, striking two sixes and two fours. In the 11th over of the innings Rilee hit leggie Shadab Khan for two successive sixes and that over fetched 18 runs. After losing a few quick wickets afterwards Rizwan then stitched 32 runs for the sixth wicket association with Carlos Brathwaite (22*) before himself falling prey to Wasim in the 19th over. This was the second fifty from Rizwan in the PSL history in his 36th game. His previous best was 50 not out. Brathwaite, the West Indian, faced 14 balls, having smacked two fours and one six.
Debutant paceman Mohammad Wasim turned out to be the star performer for United as he captured 3-29 in his quota of four overs which also included the prized scalps of Rizwan, Shahid Afridi (0) and Sohaib Maqsood (2).
He was ably backed by English paceman Lewis Gregory with 2-31 in four which also carried the wickets of James Vince and Khushdil Shah (7).
Hasan Ali (1-16) kept tight economy rate with Faheem (1-27) and Shadab (1-33) also finishing among the wicket-takers.
Multan’s 50 came off 42 balls and their 100 in 74 deliveries. In the power-play Multan scored 39 while the last five overs also produced 39 runs.