Islamabad United 247 for 2 (Khawaja 105*, Malik 1-14) beat Peshawar Zalmi 232 for 6 (Malik 68, Kamran 53, Javed 3-43, Talat 2-37) by 15 runs
There are run fests, there are entertaining T20 games, and then there's what happened on Thursday evening in Abu Dhabi.
The summary: Islamabad United set the highest total in PSL history, powered by an unbeaten 105 by Usman Khawaja, who stood in as captain for the rested Shadab Khan. In response, Peshawar Zalmi came within one good over of overhauling that score, with half-centuries from Shoaib Malik (36-ball 68) and Kamran Akmal (53 off 32), and together the teams contributed to the highest PSL match aggregate ever, with the win guaranteeing United a top-two finish.
At the halfway stage of their chase, Zalmi had just lost Akmal and were placed at 93 for 3. What followed was a frenetic five-over spell where Malik and Sherfane Rutherford played a key role in plundering 81, with Rutherford's first four scoring shots clearing long-on twice, long-off and deep square leg in a Zafar Gohar over that travelled for 30 en route to the most expensive figures in PSL history. However, the last ball of that period saw Rutherford edge a Hasan Ali slower ball to Muhammad Akhlaq, and eight balls later, Malik perished to a Hussain Talat yorker to leave Zalmi at 185 for 6. Wahab Riaz and Umaid Asif still swung their blades with abandon, and put together 47 off 22 balls to highlight the quality of the pitch used, but eventually fell 15 short.
Khawaja and Munro set the tone
Khawaja and Colin Munro were watchful in the first three overs, but then picked up 35 off the next three. Munro was the principal aggressor early on, innovating against Sameen Gul with a top edge over third man while attempting a scoop and then scything one through cover-point. Leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed also bore the brunt of Munro's unorthodox methods, with a lofted shot back over the head, and a bash over long-on sandwiched between two switch hits that hurried towards the unprotected gap between short third man and point in a seventh over that produced 21 runs.
Khawaja joined in the fun, plucking runs around the wicket with wristy flicks to anything around his pads, and pulling the odd short ball from the Zalmi bowlers. Eventually, the breakthrough would come, with Malik throwing in a slower ball after spearing in a few at Munro, and beating an attempted swipe through midwicket to clip the top of off.
United responding by sending in Asif Ali, who ensured the momentum would stay with the batting team, plundering 43 off just 14 balls. His brief stay at the crease brought him two fours and five sixes, three of them off four balls in the 13th over, where he took a special liking to Gul, having previously deposited Abrar over midwicket for two maximums. A pull off a Gul short ball was caught at deep square leg, but by then United were already at 145 with over seven overs to be bowled.
The final push
What followed started with a tapestry of gorgeous drives and flicks from Khawaja, who also innovated with the fields set by Riaz, dinking the Zalmi captain over short fine leg a few times, and ended in a blitz of big hits from the Australian and Brandon King. Both men were especially severe on Afghan left-arm wristspinner Waqar Salamkheil, playing firmly back over his head when not bashing him around the corner each time he offered width. There was some luck along the way, a couple of difficult chances going down with Rovman Powell dropping King on 20 while trying to track back over his head from mid-off, and the luckless Abrar dropping Khawaja off the last ball. By then, the United captain had already brought up a 53-ball ton, and the pair of Khawaja and King added 102 in just 43 balls. Four batsmen of four different nationalities joining in the fun.
Zalmi's valiant effort
Hazratullah Zazai fell off the very first ball, top-edging Javed for Hasan to take a skier running from mid-on to midwicket. Imam-ul-Haq perished early too, falling in a similar fashion after misreading the length of a Javed ball that was too short to drive on the up. Two quality overs from Hasan, who had conceded just five in the powerplay, contributed significantly to the pressure, with Akmal failing to pick his variations in speed and length.
Akmal and Malik then combined for the first substantial stand, with Akmal playing some trademark lofted drives and inside-out shots, in addition to finding fortuitous boundaries through edges a few times. When Akmal fell to Talat, and Powell perished soon after, it fell to Malik to keep the momentum going. He did that in splendid fashion, skipping down the wicket to Fawad Ahmed to thwack him for six back over his head, before punishing his correction in length with a cut and a swat to midwicket. Indeed, Zalmi looked the likely favourite at one stage, until a slower ball from Hasan Ali undid a Rutherford cameo and eventually gave United the necessary breathing space.