Colin Munro, bowlers dismantle Lahore Qalandars
Islamabad hand Lahore a 71-run thrashing and move to second
Islamabad United 198 for 3 (Munro 87, Ronchi 48, Hafeez 1-11) beat Lahore Qalandars 127 (Shinwari 30, Raees 3-29 Gohar 3-31) by 71 runs
If anyone was beginning to get carried away by Lahore Qalandars' performance on Tuesday, they were brought sharply back to earth by a team that reverted to type in spectacular fashion. Having put in their best performance of the season against Quetta Gladiators, Lahore provided a reminder of their worst qualities in a 71-run thrashing at Islamabad's hands. Set 199 to win, Lahore's batsmen failed to replicate the heroics that had seen them surge to 209 just 24 hours earlier. Only a 38-run tenth-wicket partnership ensured they crawled to 127 by the end, but it was still the second-lowest total of the season, and the heaviest defeat by runs in PSL history.
Islamabad needed a win, having managed just one win before today, and their trusty opening combination came to the rescue. Colin Munro and Luke Ronchi took Lahore's attack to the cleaners as Islamabad rocketed to fifty in the powerplay. Sohail Akhtar was perhaps a touch guilty of too much chopping and changing, using seven bowlers in the first 12 overs. By then, the 100-partnership had been brought up, and even when Ronchi holed out off Mohammad Hafeez, Islamabad had enough batsmen to come and keep hitting. Munro ended up batting through the innings, compiling 87 off 59.
It didn't help Lahore that Shaheen Afridi was struck down by injury, with Usman Shinwari unable to muster the wicket-taking threat that has made Afridi arguably Lahore's most prized asset. But, if there was hope they'd make the best of a bad situation, that didn't happen. And the chase was immediately hamstrung when Dale Steyn removed Chris Lynn off the second delivery. Ben Dunk and Samit Patel would fall cheaply, too, and suddenly, the batsmen who could potentially get them out of the hole they'd dug themselves were back in the pavilion.
So what did Lahore do instead? They kept digging, of course. Patel spooned one to long-off, and the lower middle order folded like a deck of cards in the face of an Islamabad attack that sensed not just a win but a significant boost to their net run-rate. All five bowlers Islamabad used got themselves in the wickets, with Zafar Gohar arguably the pick of the lot, his figures of 3 for 31 in four overs just rewards for the discipline he had showcased upon returning to the side.
Islamabad's campaign was well and truly back on track, while Lahore, in the most spectacular fashion possible, might have finally doomed theirs in front of a despairing home crowd that emptied by the wicket.
The Steyn spell
Operating from ball one at the furious speed that ensures he's one of the biggest draws wherever he plays, the South African performed his role to perfection in the powerplay, keeping the runs down as Lahore's batsmen sought to see him off.
It was something they couldn't really afford to do, given the enormity of the target they were chasing, but it's not like going after him would have guaranteed results. Indeed, Lahore's premier attacking batsman tried to knock him out of the park the second ball he faced, but all Lynn could manage was a top edge to mid-on, where Rumman Raees stood in wait. Steyn's three powerplay overs would go for just 10, and he wasn't required again till numbers 10 and 11 were at the crease for Lahore. The intensity had long seeped out of the game, and he was the main reason why.
Asif Ali's cameo
Did it impact the result? Probably not. But for a batsman so low on confidence, don't be surprised if the six balls the 28-year old faced today play their part in helping him rediscover some of the venom that has been absent from his game of late. Islamabad had momentum when he came in, but at 159 for 3 in 17.3 overs, it still required his innings to power them to within a whisker of 200. Exquisitely timed off-side drives saw him fetch two fours off his first two balls, and he still had time to thwack Salman Irshad for six off the penultimate delivery. His 20 off 6 balls was his highest score this season, and ensured the momentum remained with his side at the change of innings. It might just herald the return of an Asif that Pakistan, and not just Islamabad United, have missed.
The match-losing innings
Curiously brought in to replace Fakhar Zaman at the top of the order, Salman Butt struggled to get any momentum through what in the end was a torturous 24-ball stay that produced 21 runs before he finally sliced Gohar to point. But, it wasn't just the fact he allowed the asking rate to continue rising that hurt his side. As he batted alongside Ben Dunk, he was content to take singles that put Dunk on strike at almost every opportunity, forcing the Australian to take ever-increasing risks, anticipating the need for another single-handed knock. Soon enough, his luck ran out with a low-percentage slog. Next over, Butt finally loosened his arms as he tried to loft Gohar over cover. He ended up scooping it straight to the fielder, and from that moment, Lahore's fate was sealed.
Where the teams stand
Lahore stayed rooted to the bottom of the table with just one win in five matches. Islamabad United jumped from fourth to second, and bolstered their net run-rate significantly, after picking up a third win in seven games.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000