LAHORE: With his side needing to win a game that had seemingly drifted away from them, Wahab Riaz delivered at the Gaddafi Stadium.
The Peshawar Zalmi skipper bowled a superb penultimate over of a tense HBL Pakistan Super League match against Islamabad United on Thursday night that ultimately sealed a 10-run win for his side.
United were severely depleted, missing their inspirational captain Shadab Khan, but Azam Khan almost stole a win for his side with a swashbuckling 85 before he was dismissed by Wahab on the first ball of that over. United were requiring 24 runs to win at that point when Azam, who had already hit seven sixes and six fours, swung his bat. He got the elevation but not the distance as the ball was pouched by Ben Cutting at long-off.
Wahab then gave away just three more runs off that over, ending United’s hopes, and giving Zalmi the victory that saw them leapfrog their opponents into third place in the standings on 10 points. United, have played a game less than Zalmi, who have just one more game left to confirm their playoff berth although they are now four clear of fifth-placed Quetta Gladiators who have two games left.
Chasing 207, United came charging out of the blocks, scoring at the same blistering pace with which Mohammad Haris (70 off 32) had started Peshawar Zalmi’s innings to set up the stiff target. Rahmanullah Gurbaz had made opening partner Mubasir Khan, one of five changes to the United side due to injury or otherwise, a spectator at the other end — just like Haris had done with Hazratullah Zazai earlier — as he tore into the Zalmi attack at the Gaddafi Stadium.
The 20-year old Afghan opener had reached 46 of 18 deliveries with five sixes and three fours while being particularly severe on Usman Qadir, looking well set to break the record for the fastest 50 of the season for the second time in the match after Haris’ exploits. But his attempt to hit Salman Irshad over the fence fell short and into the hands of Liam Livingstone — guilty of dropping Gurbaz earlier — at deep square.
Four balls later, Danish Aziz edged Wahab Riaz behind to Haris and United were 55-2 halfway through the fifth over. After a breathless first four overs, Zalmi could now breathe. Mubasir (21) and Azam Khan, however were unrelenting. Azam hit Salman for consecutive fours in the sixth over, and added another boundary of Livingstone in the eighth, where Mubasir got a six and a four.
Zalmi needed Hussain Talat to tighten the screw and he oliged. After beating Mubasir on three successive deliveries, he forced him to block the fourth. With Mubasir under pressure and looking to hit, Hussain bowled an off-cutter that the United opener could only hit to Ben Cutting at long-on. Azam, though, was proving to be an immovable object as he helped United reach 100 in the 11th over.
Having conceded 22 in his first over, Usman returned to bowl the 12th over but Azam completed a miserable day for the leg-spinner as he hit three sixes off him. Usman wasn’t given the ball after that. Liam Dawson became the fourth United wicket when he was dismissed for four in the following over.
Salman removed stand-in United skipper Asif Ali (11) and Faheem Ashraf (nine) but Azam remained the key wicket. And once he was gone, United’s hopes were over. Zalmi rode on an explosive start by Haris to put up 206 after they elected to bat. With United’s bowling resources depleted due to injuries to Shadab and Zeeshan Zameer as well as Hasan Ali being rested, there was no respite from Haris.
Faheem was dispatched over square leg on the third delivery before Mohammad Musa was taken to the cleaners.
The first ball was hit for a six towards midwicket before Haris got three boundaries off the next three deliveries and another of the final one.
Faheem and Waqas Maqsood were hit for a six each in the next two overs as Zalmi raised their 50 in the fourth over with Haris having contributed 46.
He then reached the tournament’s fastest half-century, off 20 deliveries, with a four off Marchant de Lange, who was also hit for two fours by Zazai for two boundaries.
Zazai (13), however, was gone just after he had got going when he hit Liam Dawson to de Lange at long-on. That, however, meant Yasir Khan (35) joined the party and he welcomed Zahir Khan with a four and two sixes to collect 20 runs off the Afghan spinner in the seventh over where Zalmi reached the 100-run mark. Haris got the fifth six of his knock off Musa but fell with the score at 113 in the 10th over, caught at long leg by Musa off Waqas.
Zalmi looked for a total well in excess of 220 and Yasir seemed well set to take them there. But after Zahir bagged him with a slower delivery in the 13th over, Zalmi couldn’t get the finish their stunning start craved. Shoaib Malik (38) and Sherfane Rutherford (16) both hit two sixes each but United got back into the game, picking wickets at regular intervals while giving away just 41 runs in the last five overs. It didn’t matter in the end.