Bowlers, Pietersen dazzle in Quetta win

The first PSL game in Sharjah began with a crushing six-wicket win for Quetta Gladiators.

They first stifled Islamabad United and restricted them to 134 despite some terrific top-order hitting from Luke Ronchi, whose 26-ball 43 accounted for a bulk of the runs.After his dismissal, however, Misbah-ul-Haq and JP Duminy, both playing their first games of the season, managed 36 off 51 balls between them. That Islamabad crossed 130 was courtesy a late charge from Faheem Ashraf. For Quetta, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Nawaz and Hasan Khan enjoyed successful spells.

Quetta’s response was spearheaded by Kevin Pietersen, who rode his luck initially before settling into ominous touch. When he did, he squashed any plans Misbah might have been harbouring to beat an unlikely path to victory, smashing three huge sixes en route to a 34-ball 48. Peripheral contributions from Mohammad Nawaz and Asad Shafiq and Shane Watson were more than enough to seal what was, in truth, a cakewalk for the two-time runners-up.

Where the match was won

If someone told Islamabad United that their two biggest overs with the bat would fetch 24 and 18, they might have been quite pleased. Tell them that those two would account for nearly a third of their total runs, and you’d wipe that smile off their faces. They managed just 92 off the other 18. Anwar Ali provided a good start, while left-arm spinners Mohammad Nawaz and Hasan Khan kept Islamabad on a leash in the middle overs. The precocious Hasan was responsible for the most crucial moment in the game, bowling Luke Ronchi with his first ball. The New Zealand opener was the only Islamabad player who looked in any touch, and in his absence, Quetta’s bowlers outclassed a listless batting side.

The men that won it

The PSL has seen a few close low-scoring games, and without Pietersen’s cavalier self-confidence, this could easily have turned into one of them. After surviving several early jitters, he found himself in good touch and immediately set his mind to putting the game out of Islamabad’s reach while he was finding the middle of the bat. No bowler was safe from his onslaught with Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf coming in for particular punishment. By the time he sliced one off Steven Finn, the required rate was around 3.5, and the outcome of the game was academic.

Benching the superstars?

The team sheets prompted a fair bit of reactions because two of the most explosive T20 cricketers were left to warm the bench. Quetta began without Jofra Archer – although it later emerged he was nursing a bruised heel – but it was Islamabad’s decision to leave out Andre Russell that baffled many. It didn’t look any better tactically as the game went on as Islamabad limped along for much of their innings, crying out for a power hitter who sat warming the bench.

Where they stand

Quetta move up to third with four points. Misbah’s Islamabad, meanwhile, are stuck on two points, and are placed fifth.