PSL 2021: Usman Khawaja oozes class for leaders Islamabad United

Usman Khawaja, the stand-in captain for Islamabad United, after completing his century in Abu Dhabi on Friday. Image Credit: Twitter/PSL

Kolkata: Usman Khawaja, who was dumped from Cricket Australia’s contracted players’ list last year, showed he still has enough fire left in the belly – and strokes – to make a career in franchise cricket. Stepping in as stand-in captain for league leaders Islamabad United, Khawaja belted a classy 105 off 56 balls in his team’s record total of 247-2 in Pakistan Super League in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening on way to taming Peshawar Zalmi by 15 runs on Thursday evening.

‘‘It was enjoyable to bat 20 overs,’’ the 34-year-old graceful southpaw said. `’’I’m not trying to take anything away from our bowlers because they put in a great effort, but Shadab was resting. We knew we were probably going one short on pace.’’

Peshawar, who are poised to qualify as the second team for the play-offs, nearly upstaged Khawaja’s brilliant effort with a spirited reply of 232 for six as Shoaib Malik (68) and Kamran Akmal (53) led the charge. Islamabad, two-time champions, bettered their own previous PSL record of 238-3 against Lahore Qalandars in 2019.

Holders Karachi Kings meanwhile kept alive their play-off hopes with a seven-run win over third-placed Lahore Qalandars in the late game of the day at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

Kings batted first and posted 176-5, with in-form Babar Azam scoring 54 and Martin Guptill belted 43 from 31 balls including three sixes. The Qalandars were right in the chase with contributions from senior pro Hohammad Hafeez (36), Tim David (34) and James Faulkner (33) but the chase was strangled by some tight bowling.

Noor Ahmad, the 16-year-old Afghan left-arm spinner, took 2-19 in four overs including the wickets of Hafeez and Ben Dunk (6).

In the opening match, Khawaja set the tempo with a breezy 98-run opening stand with Colin Munro (48) off only 59 balls. The New Zealander just missed out on his third half-century in four games.

Khawaja reached his third T20 century in the last over with a boundary followed by two delectable sixes, with an innings tally of 13 fours and three sixes.

Peshawar lost Hazratullah Zazai off the first ball, but Akmal and Malik kept them in the hunt. Experienced fast bowler Hasan Ali picked up 3-43 that included the key wicket of Malik in the 17th over.

‘‘We were very pathetic in the field when we won the toss and bowled first – knowing they were a bowler short,’’ Peshawar skipper Wahab Riaz said. ‘‘The attitude wasn’t there.’’