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PSL 2021 | Eliminator 2: Hazratullah Zazai butchers Islamabad to send Zalmi to their 4th Final

There are days when a certain batsman takes a whole team out, for Hazratullah Zazai, there isn’t just one day, it’s every day. Right after slaughtering Karachi Kings in the first Eliminator on June 22, the Afghan international came back a day later to butcher Islamabad out of the Pakistan Super League’s title race as well. With this eight-wicket win, the Zalmi confirmed their fourth entry into a PSL Final. They would now face first-time finalists Multan Sultans at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on June 24. 

Playing only his fourth match in the league, the left-hander showed maturity and instead of getting bogged down by the controlled Islamabad bowling at the start of the chase. Once settled, he started his usual carnage, hitting sixes and fours at will. In his knock of 66 from 44 balls, the 23-year-old hit six fours and four humungous sixes on the grass banks in the stadium. 

For such blistering innings to survive, chances are important and Zazai too was offered a chance when United wicketkeeper Mohammad Akhlaq spilt a straightforward catch off the bowling of Hasan Ali in only the third over of the innings. The southpaw was batting at just seven then. Zazai won his third Man of the Match in the tournament in just his fourth appearance. 

He was partnered well by debutant Jonathan Wells from Australia. He came on after Kamran Akmal chopped one on to his stumps in the very first over of the innings. The duo added 126 in just 81 balls to simplify the 175 run chase for their team. The Adelaide Striker’s veteran was into his element right from the beginning, just after negotiating a horrific mixup on the very first ball that he faced. Wells made a well compiled 55 off 43 balls and remained unbeaten alongside Shoaib Malik to see his team home. 

Reacting after the two losses and on being forced to bow out of the tournament even after being the best team till the league stage, skipper Shadab Khan was disappointed but vowed to come back strong next year and win the title for the United fans. 

“We didn't put in the kind of performances (in the playoffs) that we were doing earlier. In these pressure games, it's important to have a grip on your nerves. Other teams played better than us, credit to them,” said the 22-year-old captain. 

“..that catch of Zazai, if it had been taken, things could have been different. Lots of positives this season, hopefully, we will come back even stronger next year and try to make Islamabad a champion,” Shadab added. 

Earlier in the evening, after winning the toss, Zalmi skipper invited Islamabad to bat first. United had a horrific start as its most in-form batsman, Usman Khawaja was run out in the most unfortunate of the manners when the ball driven straight by Colin Munro, ricochet from bowler Malik’s shoelaces to hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end. 

Munro tried his level best to get Islamabad out of that early shock with his 29 balls 44. But his dismissal, in which he was given out after a thin edge was reviewed Wahab on wicket-keeper Akmal’s request, put the red brigade in a lot of discomforts. All their batsmen failed one by one including the star layers like Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed. 

At 110-8 in the 17th over, the maximum that Islamabad were looking for or could hope to get to was 140. But Hasan Ali had other plans as the bowler went berserk with the bat, hitting five fours and three sixes to reach 45 off just 15 balls before being run out on the penultimate delivery of the 20th over. Mohammad Wasim Jr. stood alongside him to score 17 off 11 balls to push Islamabad to a more than a defendable total of 175. 

From Zalmi’s point of view inclusion of both Wells and Amad Butt for this game was successful as Butt was the pick of the bowlers for his team, going for just 26 runs in his four overs and picking up the wicket of dangerous-looking Brandon Kings. 

Skipper Wahab was impressed with the team’s attitude and hope that they could carry the same to the final in a day. He also thanked the Zalmi fans for their support throughout the campaign. 

“There is no fear. They [players] are playing very good cricket, so I'll just say the pressure is on them [Multan Sultans] again. Let's see if they can handle it. The way my boys have played, they deserve the day off. They need to relax and prepare for the final,” he said. 

“The fans supported us, prayed for us. It was a difficult route we took to the final but it's a great feeling,” added the 36-year-old veteran.

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