Zalmi edge out United to set up rematch in Eliminator
Haris' 26-ball fifty, three-wicket hauls from Shahzad and Muqueem down United
Peshawar Zalmi 179 for 8 (Haris 79, Rajapaksa 41, Hasan 3-39) beat Islamabad United 166 (Ashraf 38, Shahzad 3-19, Muqueem 3-37) by 13 runs
Quetta Gladiators' defeat on Saturday night confirmed this game would be little more than a warm-up for when these two sides meet in the Eliminator on Thursday. And it was Peshawar Zalmi who made the more consequential statement, stifling United's batting line-up for the second game in succession, edging them out by 13 runs.
Mohammad Haris' scorching knock, a coruscating 79 off 39, set Zalmi up before the lower order collapsed to post a seemingly below-par 179 on another extremely accommodating Rawalpindi pitch. No one from United, however, was able to respond in kind, frittering away their wickets after relatively inconsequential cameos in the face of an extremely disciplined bowling line-up. Sufiyan Muqeem led the way, while Khurram Shahzad, Aamer Jamal and James Neesham also found themselves among the wickets as United found the target a bridge too far, despite a late flurry from Faheem Ashraf.
United won the toss and inserted Zalmi, making the best possible start when Fazalhaq Farooqi cleaned up Saim Ayub for a duck. But Haris was unfazed at the other end, getting the ball rolling by clobbering Hasan Ali the following over. Farooqi wasn't spared the following over, smoked for another 14 at Haris' hands. Rajapaksa joined in from the other end, walloping Faheem Ashraf for 17 in the final powerplay over as Zalmi overcame the early dismissal to post 69 in the first six.
The pair barely noticed that the field had been spread out. Rajapaksa smashed Shadab for a six off his third ball before Haris gave the United captain a hiding in his second over, bringing up a 26-ball 50, as well as Zalmi's hundred in the ninth over. By the halfway mark, they had posted 116, well on course to put up yet another score in excess of 200 at this bowlers' graveyard.
In the second half of the innings, however, United brought the full force of their bowling to bear. Shadab removed Rajapaksa in his third over, before a Zalmi procession of wickets ensued. Stand-in captain Tom-Kohler Cadmore, deputising for an ailing Babar Azam, was only good for a cameo before Shadab struck again to remove the white-hot Haris, and Zalmi's soft underbelly was exposed.
Hasan Ali struck twice in the 17th over to gut the lower-middle order, and by now Zalmi were hobbling. They limped to 179 by the time the innings closed out, meaning the second ten overs had seen just 63 runs scored and seven wickets fall.
It should have been straightforward, even if Hassan Nawaz fell to Khurram Shahzad in the opening over. Sohaib Maqsood's first-ball six was a Haris-like statement of intent, but having flown to 15 off 5 balls, he tickled one through to the keeper off his sixth. A scratchy innings from Alex Hales ended when Aamer Jamal got him to drill one to Kohler-Cadmore, and Neesham struck to end a similarly gritty innings from Colin Munro.
A breezy counterattacking stand from Shadab and Rahmanullah Gurbaz kept the asking rate on a leash, but it wasn't to last. A Muqeem drag-down found the over fielder to dispose Shadab, and United suddenly wilted. Four wickets fell for 11 runs in 16 balls to suddenly put United in danger of a walloping, needing a further 69 with just two wickets in hand.
Ashraf, the hero of an earlier game in the week, however, kept United alive with another stunning onslaught, speeding along to 38 off 12, with United needing 14 off the final four to ambush Zalmi. That was when Shahzad enjoyed his finest moment in a Zalmi shirt, two perfect yorkers sneaking underneath the bats of Faheem - and then No.11 Farooqi - to condemn United to their second straight defeat.
The win today gave Zalmi bragging rights. A repeat on Thursday would put them within one game of the PSL final.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000