<
>

Ashraf, Duminy secure top spot for Islamabad

Islamabad United 149 for 4 (Duminy 54) beat Quetta Gladiators 147 for 7 (Sarfraz 43, Ashraf 3-19) by six wickets

In a nutshell

Islamabad United turned in yet another clinical performance, dispatching Quetta Gladiators by six wickets and confirming top spot in the group stage. It was their sixth successive victory, set up by a stifling bowling performance that constricted Quetta throughout their innings. Samit Patel, yet again, took an early wicket, while Faheem Ashraf's three scalps struck bruising body blows to Quetta's middle order. Mohammad Sami's PSL rejuvenation continued, while Amad Butt and Hussain Talat also chipped in. Quetta's resistance only came in the form of their captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who scored a 30-ball 43, but since none of his team-mates managed to get past 28, they could only manage 147.

It didn't quite seem enough on that Sharjah pitch, and particularly not against Islamabad. Quetta gave themselves a sniff when Rahat Ali cleaned up the dangerous Luke Ronchi in the second over, but his opening partner JP Duminy rose to the occasion, commanding the chase with a composed half-century. Every batsman that was called upon made a contribution with Quetta's bowlers failing to penetrate with the frequency and potency they needed to defend a small target.

Where the match was won

Earlier on in the tournament, 147 might have been a winning score, but of late - and especially in Sharjah - teams look to have finally acquired the knack of pacing a T20 innings. Unperturbed by the asking rate after an early wicket, Islamabad continued to turn over the strike and build partnerships, aware the loss of wickets was the only route Quetta had of getting back into the game. After the fall of the first wicket, they put up partnerships of 45, 27, 44 and an unbeaten 20, making sure they didn't have to expose their lower middle order.

The men that won it

The bowling performance Islamabad put up was impressive, The Powerplay overs were disciplined, miserly even, and just when Quetta had to accelerate, the bowlers came up with a wicket.

Quetta's foreign playersat the top were all kept quiet or removed early; Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson and Rilee Rossow made only 48 runs off 49 balls. It was down to no Islamabad bowler giving away free runs; even Shadab Khan, the only bowler who failed to take a wicket, was frugal.

Au revoir Kevin?

With the situation in the group stage still replete with uncertainty, it didn't quite dawn on many that this could be the last game in Kevin Pietersen's career. The former England batsmen may not make the trip to Pakistan, where most of the remainder of the tournament will be played.

The only way he still gets to don the Quetta jersey is if they finish in the top two and qualify for the first playoff, in Dubai. He has struggled in this year's tournament, with 153 runs in eight games, only twice getting past 21.

Where they stand

Islamabad secure top spot with a game still to play; they are on 14 points with 7 wins from nine games. Quetta are still second, but could slip depending on results from Friday's two games.