Not sure about the opening ceremony but PSL 4 could not have a better start than the defending champions Islamabad United playing against an elusive group of Lahore Qalandars.
Islamabad under a new and slightly nervous skipper, Mohammad Sami, did not start on the right foot as one of their main fast bowlers Ruman Raees still recovering from his injury and leg spinner Shadab Khan not in the best of his white ball forms. Fakhar Zaman (65 of 44) made the most of the low bounce conditions and was aggressive from the set go.
Before the butterflies were settled down Qalandars were 1 for 97 in the 11th over. The newly appointed but slightly nervous skipper, Sami only identified that the wicket was not ideal for fast bowling after feeding Hussain Talat to inform AB de Villiers(24 of 17). Hussain went for 20 in his sole over and Qalandars were 1 for 129 in the 14 over. With AB and Fakhar on the wicket and Hafeez (5), Devcich (14), Taylor (2) and Brathwaite (6) to follow, Qalandars were all set for north of 200.
It was time to pay off for the skipper, Sami, and he made the master move with unconventional bowling changes in the form of Delport (1/12) and Waqas Maqsood (1/25). For those who don’t know Waqas, he has a good slower ball and is ideally suited for such conditions. From 1 for 129 Qalandars collapsed to a not so par total of 8 for 171 in 20 overs.
OUT! Waqas Maqsood gets the big wicket of AB de Villiers (24) and Islamabad United are crawling back into the match— Cricingif (@_cricingif) February 14, 2019
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details ??https://t.co/aXZ4w2qaLq #HBLPSL2019 #CricketForAll #JazzSuper4G #DunyaKoBataaDo @jazzpk pic.twitter.com/bwDViex3c6
Fahim Ashraf, the best ICC T20 fast bowler, kept Qalandars in check with his bouncers and finished with figures of 2 for 24. Shadab had his most expensive figures of PSL career and finished with 1/34.
Looking at the behaviour of the wicket at the mid-way mark it was axiomatic that Qalandars, with the firepower of Yasir and Hafeez, would roll-over United. However, Hafeez seemed to miss the mark as a skipper. Surprisingly, did not start himself with the new ball even though there was a left-hand debutant opening the innings.
Islamabad United with no major star attractions usually rely on their batting combination which goes all the way to number 9. With pace on the ball, Ronchi (27 of 17) and Rizwan (15 of 15) had a positive start to the game and placed United on the winning track of none for 45 in 5 overs. Rahat Ali, the pick of Qalandar bowlers, decided to bowl cross seam and took 3 key wickets in the 6th over of the chase and put a dent to the chase.
OUT! Another wicket for Rahat Ali and Lahore Qalandars have made their way back into the match. Fantastic stuff. Phil Salt in the player to depart. 49/3 after 6 overs— Cricingif (@_cricingif) February 14, 2019
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details ??https://t.co/aXZ4w2qaLq #HBLPSL2019 #KhelDeewanoKa #CricketForAll pic.twitter.com/IiKwG4PoEC
He finished with figures of 4/29. United kept losing key wickets yet kept recovering to keep the game alive. The bouncing back from difficult situations is a constant factor in the United camp. The team just does not give up. With 5 for 118 in the 15th over, it was all set for a close finish if not a super over.
But Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf made sure there was nail-biting towards the end. Asif (36 of 19) and Faheem (23 of 11) finished the game convincingly with 4 balls to spare. Qalandars on a slow track were depending on Yasir Shah but he was unable to penetrate through the young United batting line up. He was found guilty of bowling flat and quick and not relying on flight and spin. Hafeez too, did not learn from Yasir and went for 28 in his 3 odd overs.
Just the fact that five of the United players are looking to confirm their World Cup tickets through strong performances in PSL 4 make the team even more threatening.
Lahore Qalandars is an interesting case. They changed their captain, they changed their players, they re-vamped the whole team. May be time to change the team owner?