PSL 2021: Islamabad United have a ball with back-to-back wins

PSL - Iftikhar Ahmed
Man of the Match Iftikhar Ahmed steps out for a big shot during his unbeaten 71 against Karachi Kings on Monday. Image Credit: PSL

Kolkata: It was a profitable Monday for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League – both on and off the pitch. If they succeeded in calculated chase of a steep target against holders Karachi Kings at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi late in the evening, they are now also assured of the services of international pace bowler Hassan Ali who changed his mind about going home midway in the tournament.

Hasan was due to fly back home on Sunday, but will remain in the UAE capital and complete Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 league, where his team is now poised at the top of the table with 12 points from eight games. Lahore Qalandars, on 10 points from seven outings, are in second position of a six-team league where the top four teams will qualify for the play-offs.

‘‘I was going through a personal family issue, which has been resolved thanks to my wonderful wife,’’ Hasan said in a statement on Monday. ‘‘She assured me she will take care of it and wants me to concentrate on my cricket and my career,’’ he added.

Later in the day, Islamabad sent Karachi into bat and could have been possibly ruing their decision as the champions ran up a stiff total of 190 for four wickets – built around a silken effort of 81 off 54 balls by Pakistan skipper Babar Azam. Najibullah Zadran, their Afghanistan import, was the second highest scorer for Karachi with an unbeaten 71 off 42 deliveries.

Azam, ranked number one T20 batsman in the world, was in his elements as he struck seven boundaries and three sixes and maintained a strike-rate of 150,00 during his innings.

Chasing a big target, Islamabad lost two wickets – opener Usman Khawaja and Mohammed Akhlaq cheaply inside the powerplay. However, New Zealander Colin Munro, who is in blazing form in this tournament, was in his elements again and an unbeaten 150-run partnership between him and Iftikhar Ahmed helped them overhaul the target with two balls to share.

Munro’s unbeaten 88 off 56 balls contained 12 hits to the fence and two sixes, while Man of the Match Ahmed was unbeaten at 71 off 39 balls (five fours and as many sixes). Ahmed earlier was economic with the ball also, going for only 10 runs off his two overs without a wicket.

Earlier on Sunday, Islamabad has notched up a stunning 28-run win over Lahore Qalandars for back-to-back wins. ‘‘It is fortunate for us that Hassan will be available for us through the rest of the tournament,’’ Islamabad owner Ali Naqvi said. ‘‘But more importantly, we’re happy that whatever issues there were have been resolved. We wish the very best to Hassan in every aspect of his life.’’