After the glittery first week in Dubai, the second edition of the Pakistan Super League moved to Sharjah and did not take long to announce its arrival as an exhilarating contest between the last year’s finalists kept frenzies glued to the contest.
A face-off between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators was always going to be a riveting encounter – Pakistan’s unlimited-overs captain up against the limited-overs skipper.
The result of the contest, however, was the same as the final of the inaugural season.
United strolled to a five-wicket win at the historic Sharjah cricket stadium but not before a few wobbles, which spiced up the match.
With 149 to chase, United started the second innings steadily. Sam Billings, putting his trust in the sheeny Sharjah wicket, put his foot on the accelerator in the second over as he struck Umar Gul, making his return, for two boundaries.
Misbah for the fifth time in PSL did not lose a match after winning the toss.
He targeted Anwar Ali, three overs later, to plummet the required run-rate during the fifth over charging down the wicket to hit two back to back fours at the cover region. The Englishman followed up with a flick – that went for four – on the fifth ball.
The next over, however, was the beginning of a phase that saw Quetta Gladiators dominate when Mohammad Nawaz (2/18) bowled Dwayne Smith on the third ball. Sarfraz Ahmed was quick to introduce another left-arm orthodox Hassan Khan (1/24) in the first over post-powerplay after watching Nawaz purchase spin.
Veteran batsmen Brad Haddin (6 off 9) and Misbah-ul-Haq (10 off 11) fell to Nawaz and Hassan respectively by the 11th over, but Billings held his end firmly.
Shane Watson partnered with him to consolidate United’s position in the game for approximately seven overs and the two piled up 63 crucial runs. Dropped earlier in his innings by Sarfraz off Nawaz, Watson smoked six boundaries – four 4s and two 6s – during his 27-ball 36.
He was dismissed in the 18th over off Thisara Perera’s short-pitched delivery but he had done enough to drag the required run-rate down to run-a-ball by striking two fours and a six in quick succession during that over.
The match was sealed on the first ball of the last over, as Billings (78* from 50) sat on his back knee to deposit Perera on the mid-wicket boundary.