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Pakistan Super League: Islamabad United wins the Pakistan Super League!

Written by ceditor

It was a night to remember for the players, the management and the fans of Islamabad United, who won the PSL trophy for the third time, defeating Multan Sultans in a thrilling final at National Stadium, Karachi.

Late order batter Hunain Shah ensured that his team came out victorious for the third time in three finals, and hit the final delivery of the tournament through point to clinch an unlikely victory.

For Mohammad Rizwan’s Multan Sultans, who became the first PSL franchise to reach their fourth successive final, this was their third consecutive defeat in the grand finale. They could not stop the eventual winners from reaching the target of 160 runs, which they achieved thanks to the heroics of Martin Guptill, who scored a match-winning half-century.

Cricket fans in the country can also be termed as the ultimate winners, since they were treated to a great edition of the Pakistan Super League where for the ninth year in a row, fast bowlers reigned supreme, batters terrorised the opposition, and world-class players shared the dressing room with potential superstars of the future.

Let’s look at the performance of all the teams involved in PSL to see how they fared in the season.

Islamabad United — third time’s the charm

Combine Shadab Khan’s dynamic leadership skills with Imad Wasim’s resourceful talent, Azam Khan’s explosive hitting and Naseem Shah’s fiery bowling, and you get a team that could not only make a comeback during the tournament, but defeat the best side not once, but twice. The way Islamabad United reached the event’s final was not just majestic, but also stuff dreams are made of.

Throughout the tournament, Islamabad United benefited from the quick-fire start provided by Colin Munro, and when he got injured in the playoffs, Martin Guptill took over. In the middle, Salman Ali Agha and Shadab Khan were always ready to add valuable runs to the scorecard, as were Azam Khan and Haider Ali in the lower order.

As for Imad Wasim, he proved his worth as a big match player by first steering his side into the playoffs with a crucial knock, and then ensuring that on his watch, the team didn’t lose any of the three knockout matches — the two eliminators and the grand finale.

He was also instrumental in the team’s ascent and his resurgence as the new ball bowler was crucial to the team’s late comeback. If Imad slipped in a match, the team always had Shadab Khan as the support bowler, who could depend on Naseem Shah, Rumman Raees or Faheem Ashraf, to take wickets when the going got tough. Naseem’s younger brother Hunain may not have hit his peak yet, but he proved his worth in the side, especially in the final where his calmness resulted in the winning runs that secured the team’s third title.

Multan Sultans — unlucky despite winning most matches

They may have reached their fourth final in as many years and might have won the highest number of matches in the first stage, but Multan Sultans’ luck ran out in the grand finale for the third consecutive year. Their decisions in the final, like promoting David Willey in the batting order, demoting Iftikhar Ahmed and persisting with Yasir Khan at the top, backfired in the all-important encounter.

The super form of Usman Khan also helped Rizwan’s side as he managed to become the only batter to score two centuries in one PSL edition. Iftikhar Ahmed’s late order hitting was one of the many reasons why Multan became the first team to qualify for the playoffs and then reach the grand finale, while others were still battling to be the second team in the title encounter.

Losing South Africa’s Reeza Hendricks in the final matches to national duty was one of the setbacks the team had to deal with in the latter stage of the game, but batters led by the second and third highest scorer of the tournament — Usman Khan and Mohammad Rizwan — didn’t disappoint before the grand finale. After all, if a team had a world-class pace attack comprising Mohammad Ali, Abbas Afridi and David Willey, with Shahnawaz Dahani on the bench, who wouldn’t be confident of the team’s success? The resurgence of Usama Mir, who ended up with 24 wickets, and the Fazal Mahmood cap was also instrumental in the team’s rise to the top.

Peshawar Zalmi — undoubtedly the most exciting team of the tournament

They might have lost both their matches in the playoffs — the qualifier and the eliminator — but Babar Azam’s team entertained the audience throughout the event. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that they were the most exciting team of the event; they used Saim Ayub both as a batter and a bowler who supported his captain at the top order while batting, and then as a wicket-taking option when he was needed.

The presence of Pakistan’s all-round sensation Aamir Jamal helped the Zalmis a lot, who won a match because of his heroics with the ball and would have won another with the bat had the all-rounder received support at the other end. The team might not have won the trophy, but Babar Azam did win the Hanif Mohammad Cap since he ended the event as the top scorer.

Quetta Gladiators — change in captaincy, no change in result

For the first time in the history of PSL, the Quetta franchise was led by someone other than Sarfaraz Ahmed, but the change in captaincy couldn’t change the team’s fortunes. Under new skipper Rilee Rossouw, they might have qualified for the playoffs after five years, but were the first team to be knocked out in the playoffs, for their players couldn’t rise to the occasion. The new skipper’s inconsistent form can be termed as one of the reasons behind the team’s failure to go beyond the first eliminator.

Quetta Gladiators would remember the event for the resurgence of Saud Shakeel, who made a name for himself as an opening batter; not only was he able to score runs in crucial matches, but he even managed to trouble batters in the opposing camp with his left-arm spin. Coached by former Australian Shane Watson, the team’s other left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein managed to take the only hat-trick of the season; Mohammad Wasim Jr.’s last ball six off Shaheen Afridi would remain the team’s highest point of the season.

Karachi Kings — another year, another heartbreak

The management behind Karachi Kings tried new faces for the ninth edition of the Pakistan Super League, but even a new captain Shan Masood and a new coach Phil Simmons, were unable to change the fortunes of the struggling franchise. Despite the presence of the experienced Shoaib Malik, Karachi Kings won just four out of their ten matches and missed out on a place in the playoffs by one point.

Fans of the franchise would not forgive the management for trading Imad Wasim for Hasan Ali and Mohammad Nawaz, because the same Imad Wasim was the reason why the Kings were unable to reach the playoffs again. Captain Shan Masood’s form was also one of the reasons why the team couldn’t do well in the edition, and despite having the likes of West Indian Kieron Pollard, South African Tabraiz Shamsi and Tim Seifert from New Zealand in their ranks, they faltered big time in the league matches.

Lahore Qalandars — defending champions failed big time!

They were the winners of the last two events, making them double-defending champions for the first time in the history of the franchise. However, they fell short of their fans’ expectations and were able to win just one match out of their ten outings.

Not only were their captain Shaheen Afridi’s leadership qualities tested during the tournament, the failure of Fakhar Zaman at the top, the injury to Haris Rauf after just four matches, and David Wiese’s inability to play the full matches, were among some of the reasons why Lahore Qalandars couldn’t repeat their heroics for the third consecutive year.

Although Rassie van der Dussen was able to score more than 350 runs during the event, the South African’s return home before the final round matches dealt a huge blow to the defending champions. Also, Shaheen Afridi was unable to take advantage of Sikandar Raza’s presence in the squad, who was needlessly pushed down the order and was only treated as a proper bowler after Lahore had lost most of their matches.

It was evident from the way Lahore Qalandars played that they missed the wizardry of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, who couldn’t fulfil his commitment because he was nursing an injury. One hopes that in the next 12 months, Lahore Qalandars can recuperate and make up for their dreadful performance with a better performance in PSL 10.

And then there were the top performers

No batter was able to score more than Babar Azam’s 596 runs during the PSL 9, which included one century and five fifties, the most scored during the event. The Peshawar Zalmi skipper averaged nearly 57 runs per innings and his strike rate was 142 runs per 100 balls, proving that the king was back in form.

The next two batters on the list were from the runners-up side Multan Sultans. While Usman Khan took just seven matches to score 430 runs at an average of 107.5, and at a humungous strike rate of 164, his captain Mohammad Rizwan wasn’t far away with 407 runs in 12 matches. Rizwan’s strike rate of 122 runs was way better than his average of nearly 34 runs per innings, but he was always there when the team needed him and his four fifties were proof of that.

Usman Khan was the only player who managed to score two centuries during the PSL 9, and he missed a possible third one too during the event, which speaks a lot about the form he was in. Other players to score more than 300 runs during the event included Lahore Qalandars’ van der Dussen (364), Peshawar Zalmi’s Saim Ayub (345), Islamabad United’s Colin Munro (326), Quetta Gladiators’ Saud Shakeel (323), Islamabad United’s Salman Ali Agha (310) and Shadab Khan (305) as well as Multan Sultans’ Reeza Hendricks (304).

As for the bowlers, only six bowlers managed to register 15 wickets throughout the tournament, and Multan Sultans’ Usama Mir was on top of this list with 24 wickets in 12 matches, including the best of six wickets for just 40 runs.

No bowler had a better average (less than 16 runs per wicket), or strike rate (less than 12 deliveries for each wicket) than the Multan leg spinner, who was trailed in the list of top wicket-takers by another Multan bowler Mohammad Ali.

The pacer took 19 wickets in 12 matches, which was three more than Quetta Gladiator’s Abrar Ahmed who ended up with 16 wickets. Three bowlers Multan’s David Willey, Quetta’s Akeal Hosein and Islamabad’s Naseem Shah also took 15 wickets apiece, which helped their side reach the playoffs.

It would be unjust not to mention Imad Wasim here, who proved himself valuable to his new team. Without his contribution, Islamabad might not have made it to the finale. He may have ended up with just 126 runs and 12 wickets in the tournament, but his five wickets and valuable 17 not out in the final, proved to be the ultimate performance for Islamabad who were crowned champions for the third time.

Umair Alavi – Dawn

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