Luke Ronchi's stunning assault at the top of the order backed up Islamabad United's disciplined bowling performance and condemned Lahore Qalandars to a six-wicket defeat, their sixth loss in as many games. Ronchi's 41-ball 77 meant Islamabad chased down a target of 164 with 2.2 overs to spare. This was Islamabad's second victory over a hapless Lahore side this season, the first one having come in a Super-Over finish.
Ronchi and JP Duminy set the tone for the chase with a 47-run opening stand in 4.3 overs. Sunil Narine received a rude welcome as Ronchi smashed his first delivery for a six, but he hit back two balls later by having Duminy caught at slip. Narine would go on to take two more wickets, including Ronchi's, but it was the latter who had the last laugh. During the course of his innings, which included five fours and six sixes, Ronchi brought out his complete repertoire - the swivel-pull, cut, drive and even the flat-batted smash. When he tonked Aamer Yamin over long-off in the ninth over, he brought up his half-century off 22 balls, the joint-fastest in the PSL. When Ronchi perished in the 16th over, Islamabad needed only 13 to win.
In contrast to their performance for the most part of the match, Lahore had started in rousing fashion with the bat, with Fakhar Zaman and Anton Devcich (62 off 42 balls) raising an opening stand of 56 in 6.4 overs. Zaman led the way in the early exchanges as he biffed, pulled and cut his way to 34 off 24 balls. He was smartly caught behind by Ronchi off Duminy's bowling, but Devcich sustained the momentum. Playing his first game of the tournament, Devcich, much like Fakhar, revelled in leg-side strokes. Often, he cleared his leg and swatted the ball between long-on and deep midwicket.
While overs six to nine brought 37 runs to Lahore, there was a lull in the scoring after Agha Salman was dismissed in the 12th over. With Denesh Ramdin, promoted to No.4, struggling to middle the ball, Devcich found himself under more pressure but couldn't accelerate the tempo. Eventually both the batsmen perished in the 17th over bowled by Faheem Ashraf. Captain Brendon McCullum made a furious late dash with an unbeaten 12-ball 33, but that would eventually prove inadequate. Ashraf picked up three wickets for Islamabad, while legspinner Shadab Khan finished with figures of 4-0-15-1.
Where the match was won
Before this match, Ramdin hadn't scored a single boundary in the PSL this season. It wouldn't change by the time his painful crawl to 9 off 20 balls came to an end. What then remained baffling was McCullum's ploy to promote Ramdin ahead of himself at No. 4. Ramdin came in with the score on 101 in 11.2 overs, and departed with the addition of 20 runs in five overs. His inability to time the ball had an adverse effect on Devcich as well during a period where Lahore went eight overs without a boundary. They managed only 69 runs in the last 10 overs, and in retrospect Lahore's cause would have been better served had McCullum faced more than the dozen balls he did.
The men that won it
As much as Ramdin's knock contributed to Lahore's slowdown, Shadab's role in sapping the life out of the innings can't be overstated. Introduced into the attack at the halfway mark, the 19-year-old legspinner gave away seven runs in his first over. He then went on to concede only eight more runs in his next three. Ramdin had a particularly hard time as he swished and groped at the ball without being able to connect his bat. Shadab's parsimony effectively halted Islamabad's march to a total in the range of 180.
Where they stand
Islamabad jumped from fifth to second with their fourth win. Lahore, meanwhile, continued to languish at the bottom of the table, and while they aren't mathematically out of reckoning for a spot in the playoffs, they have their task cut out.