<
>

Irfan, Sangakkara fashion Multan win on PSL debut

Multan Sultans 152 for 3 (Sangakkara 57, Malik 42*) beat Peshawar Zalmi 151 for 6 (Hafeez 59, Sammy 29, Irfan 2-19) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

In a nutshell

The absence of enough power hitters may have been a concern for Multan Sultans, but they kicked off their campaign with a chase ideally suited to their line-up.

The 152-run target was clinically chased down courtesy a typically composed half-century by Kumar Sangakkara and an unbeaten 42 from the captain Shoaib Malik. Defending champions Peshawar Zalmi didn't bowl badly, but they simply didn't have enough runs on a greener, faster strip than is not commonly associated with the UAE.

Darren Sammy's men began shakily, thanks to a brilliant opening spell by Sohail Tanvir, who swung the ball in sharply. He was expertly backed up by Mohammad Irfan.

Irfan's extra bounce proved particularly troubling for last year's leading run-scorer Kamran Akmal, who fell for a duck attempting to pull cross the line. A half-century from Mohammad Hafeez kept the innings together, while supporting roles from Dwayne Smith and Haris Sohail helped Zalmi regroup even though their run rate was always a concern. Sammy's 29 off 11 balls helped them get past 150, but in the end, it was the early sluggishness that they were left to bemoan.

Where the match was won

With Sultans needing 38 off four overs, the game was in the balance. Wahab Riaz had one over left while specialist death bowler Chris Jordan had two. This meant at least one over would be bowled by someone who Sammy ideally didn't want at the end. The scenario placed even more pressure on Wahab and Jordan to nail their three overs to give the other bowler enough runs to play with. But Jordan's over went 12, thanks to some sloppy fielding and a fortuitous outside edge off Pollard's bat. Wahab too ended up conceding 11 in his subsequent over, thanks again to some poor fielding at the boundary. By the time it came to final over, Hammad Azam had just six runs to defend. Malik put paid to any thoughts he might have harboured of being an unlikely hero by smashing the first ball for six to seal the deal.

The men that won it

The headlines may go to the batsmen but Sultans' task had been made significantly easier by their savvy quick bowlers in the first half. Every one of Tanvir, Irfan, Junaid Khan and Hardus Viljoen were in complete control. Barring one big Tanvir over at the death, the batsmen struggled to spot a weak link in this quartet, reduced instead to slogging away at Imran Tahir, never an ideal prospect. They complemented each other's strengths like a proper bowling unit, Tanvir's and Junaid's swing, Irfan's bounce and Viljoen's accuracy combining to suffocate the opposition. It was the bowling, not the surface, that was responsible for Zalmi managing only 151, which, as Sultans were later able to demonstrate, was somewhat below par. Sammy suggested at the presentation that they were "about ten runs short".

Acing the reviews

We all saw Sammy take a selfie without a smartphone last year, and it appears his side's invisible digital skills extend to mastering HawkEye, too. The DRS, new to the PSL this year, was thrust into the spotlight as early as the second over when Tamim Iqbal was given out caught behind. The Bangladesh opener reviewed instantly, with the replays showing the ball had missed the bat by some margin. A few overs later, Dwayne Smith was given lbw off an Imran Tahir wrong 'un, and though it looked out at full speed, the batsman called for a second eye again. The ball was found to be sailing well over the stumps. The DRS had been given an early workout, and first blood had gone to the players.

Where they stand

Sultans are table toppers, understandably, but will need to show the same intensity less than 24 hours later as they come back to play the second game on Friday evening. Zalmi have a day to recover.