Stirling, Faheem guide Islamabad United to third win

KARACHI: Paul Stirling smacked the fastest fifty of the event so far and Faheem Ashraf bowled superbly as Islamabad United notched their third win from four outings when they downed Quetta Gladiators by six wickets in their fourth round fixture of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021 here at National Stadium on Tuesday night.
This was the fourth successive loss for Quetta Gladiators. They will need an extraordinary effort if they aspire to make a place in the playoffs.
Stirling hit a 33-ball 56 to enable United chase the 157-run target with 18 balls to spare after losing four wickets in the process.
Earlier, Faheem Ashraf (3-11) bowled tightly to help United restrict Gladiators to 156-7.
The win also shepherded United (6 points) to join the table toppers Peshawar Zalmi (6 points) and the third-placed outfit Lahore Qalandars (6 points) on points. United, however, stand second behind Zalmi as their net run-rate is slightly lower than Zalmi.
Chasing an easy target, Stirling seemed in a dangerous mood as the Irish batsman played shots at will and punished every bowler. Stirling’s fifty came off just 21 balls, the fastest of this event and the fourth overall fastest of the PSL history.
The 30-year old Belfast-born right-hander managed shots at will, leaving no chance for Gladiators. 
Stirling, having played three Tests for Ireland, added 76 runs off 35 balls for the opening stand with English batsman Alex Hales who was bowled by leggie Zahid Mahmood for a 13-ball 23, hitting five fours.
Stirling was also clean bowled by Zahid in the tenth over of the innings. Young stumper Rohail Nazir then showed his class, scoring a solid 28-ball 33 before being removed by Dale Steyn. Rohail struck four fours and one six. He added 37 runs off 30 balls for the third wicket stand with Shadab Khan who fell to Hasnain for a 17-ball 21. Shadab, held brilliantly by Mohammad Nawaz, clobbered two fours. United were 143-4 in the 17th over when Shadab fell.
Asif Ali then hit a ten-ball 16 not out with two fours and one six to make his team home comfortably.
Zahid was the pick of the bowlers with 2-29 in four overs. Dale Steyn (1-20) and Hasnain (1-34) got one wicket each.
Earlier skipper Sarfraz Ahmed led from the front, hitting a 41-ball 54 to guide Quetta Gladiators to 156-7.
Sarfraz, who brought in his second successive fifty of the event off 31 balls, hit four sixes and three fours in his fine knock.
The former Pakistan captain smacked spinner Iftikhar Ahmed for four successive sixes in the 13th over of the innings which fetched 26 runs.
At one stage, Gladiators were reeling at 41-4 in the sixth over. However, Sarfraz, who was trapped lbw off Faheem Ashraf, added 63 off 29 balls for the fifth wicket stand with Mohammad Nawaz who made 29-ball 31 not out, striking one six and one four.
Earlier, fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf provided a good start to Islamabad United who opted to bowl first when their skipper Shadab Khan won a crucial toss.
Hasan got rid of Saim Ayub (5) and former South African skipper Faf du Plessis (17) while Faheem removed South African left-handed batsman Cameron Delport (1) and Azam Khan (4) to leave Gladiators gasping at 41-4 in the sixth over.
Faf hit three fours in his 11-ball knock. Leggie Shadab Khan then got rid of Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting (23) to pile up further misery on the 2019 champions.
Cutting smashed one six and two fours in his 17-ball useful contribution. Hasan Ali ably backed Faheem with figures of 2-23 in four overs. Quetta made one change by bringing in young Test pacer Naseem Shah in place of Usman Shinwari.
United made two changes, replacing Phil Salt and Fawad Ahmed (Covid+) with Rohail Nazir and Mohammad Musa.
Faheem was declared as man of the match for his excellent bowling. Ahsan Raza and Shozab Raza supervised the match.

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