KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi put up a majestic all-round show at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night when they mauled Islamabad United by eight wickets in their Eliminator-2 clash to set up the HBL Pakistan Super League final against Multan Sultans.
Peshawar’s road to the decider on Thursday was set up by a rollicking partnership of 126 between Hazratullah Zazai and Jonathan Wells in only 81 balls after Kamran Akmal (8) had chopped Hasan Ali onto his stumps. But then there was no looking back for Wahab Riaz’s charges who outplayed Islamabad in all departments to make their fourth final in six seasons. They sauntered home with 21 balls to spare after having restricted the opposition to 174-9.
Yet again it was the blazing willow of Zazai which put the result beyond doubt by taking the Islamabad bowling to the cleaners. The Afghan left-hander smoked four sixes and six fours in a feisty innings of 66 off only 44 balls.
Wells, a 32-year-old right-hander from Australia, proved an inspirational selection as he marked his PSL debut in style with an undefeated 55 off 43 deliveries, hitting six boundaries and three sixes. After Zazai had dragged a wide delivery from Mohammad Wasim onto his off stump, Shoaib Malik finished the game in rapid fashion. The Pakistan discard hit five fours and a six in a 10-ball cameo of 32.
Islamabad, on the other hand, paid dearly for giving Zazai — player-of-the-match for the third time in this tournament — a reprieve on nine when wicket-keeper Mohammad Akhlaq failed to grab a chance off Hasan Ali, who had earlier rescued his side from a precarious situation.
After losing the toss, Islamabad had also lost the plot with the bat when they found themselves in dire straits at 110-8 in the 16th over. But Hasan turned on the heat as he blasted 45 off 16 balls and together with Mohammad Wasim pushed his side to a fighting total.
The Hasan-Wasim partnership of 62 lasted just 25 deliveries before Hasan was run out after hammering five fours and three sixes.
Upfront, Islamabad suffered a huge body blow when the in-form Usman Khawaja was run out in fortuitous circumstances on the fourth ball of the match; a rasping straight drive from Colin Munro deflected onto the stumps off the left boot of Malik — who had been given the opening over because both the openers were left-handers — with the unfortunate Khawaja out of the crease at the non-striker’s end.
Peshawar struck again in the next over when a quick delivery from young left-armer Mohammad Imran — who shared the new ball with Malik while Wahab held himself back — forced Akhlaq to give a simple chance to Kamran behind the stumps.
Munro pressed on the accelerator in the last over of the Powerplay and crunched three fours and one six against the bowling of veteran pacer Umaid Asif.
Islamabad seemed on road to recovery but Peshawar hit back after Munro and Brandon King had put on 56 in 36 deliveries. King was undone by Amad Butt — recalled for his first outing of the Abu Dhabi leg — when he just couldn’t get enough leverage underneath the attempted big shot and was well taken inside the square leg boundary by Umaid.
Shortly afterwards, Munro gave it away on a platter. A flick against the giant Mohammad Irfan hit the splice of the bat on its way down the leg side to a full-stretched Kamran, who held the catch one-handed. On-field umpire Asif Yaqoob was unsure but the wicket-keeper was dead sure and immediately sought out Wahab to use the DRS, which confirmed the dismissal.
The departure of Munro (44 off 29 balls, seven fours and one six) came as a certain death knell for the two-time former winners of the coveted trophy. By the time Islamabad had advanced to the three-figure mark, they were in serious trouble as Iftikhar Ahmed nicked Wahab to Kamran after building a minor stand of 22 with his captain Shadab Khan.
Despite boasting a batting line-up that had bailed out more than once in this tournament, Islamabad capitulated without any semblance of a late onslaught from Asif Ali — who had bailed them out against Lahore Qalandars after his team was tottering at 20-5 — as wickets continued to fall, that is until Hasan and Wasim pulled them out of trouble. But in the end it all proved futile.