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PSL 2023: Faheem Ashraf's Brilliance Denies Quetta Gladiators Their Second Win


Islamabad United were clinical with both and bat (Twitter)

Continuing his good run of form with the bat in the ongoing season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL 2023), all-rounder Faheem Ashraf guided Islamabad United (IU) to a two-wicket win over Quetta Gladiators (QU) in a cliff-hanger at the Pindi Club Ground in Rawalpindi on March 5, Sunday. With this win, Islamabad also qualified for the playoffs.

QU's middle order came to rescue

The Gladiators got off to a disastrous start with the bat as Islamabad United pacers made the most of the favorable conditions and got early breakthroughs. Returning Fazalhaq Farooqi got Will Smeed Leg Before Wicket on the last ball of the first over.

The left-armer struck again in his next over when he got the wicket of Yasir Khan. From the other Faheem Ashraf kept it tight and got his reward in the form of Sarfaraz Ahmed's wicket in the fourth over as Quetta Gladiators lost the third wicket for just 12 runs. The start got worse for the Gladiators when Iftikhar Ahmed got out in the last over of the powerplay. Gladiators were reeling at 17/4. 

Islamabad bowlers were all over the Gladiators. It needed something special to recover from this collapse. Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nawaz, who was promoted to number 4, got together from there and put on Quetta's highest partnership of 104 runs for the fifth wicket in the tournament's history. The left-handed duo attacked the spinners initially and once they were set they went after the Islamabad pacers.

Both batters were going at a great rate and their partnership sailed their team to 121/4 in 16 overs before Farooqi came in and got the all-important breakthrough of Nawaz. 

With only a few balls left, in walked Umar Akmal, who looked in ominous touch as he finished things off with a blistering cameo of 43 runs from just 14 balls. Akmal's blitz got them to a great total of 179 in the allotted 20 overs.

Faheem held his nerve in nail-biter

Naseem Shah gave his team a perfect start with the ball as he dismissed opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz for a duck. However, they couldn't capitalize on the start as Islamabad's overseas batters Colin Munro and Alex Hales added 52 runs partnership in just 4.2 overs to lead Islamabad’s recovery after the early breakthrough of Gurbaz.

In the fifth over, Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed Alex Hales for 12 runs. Munro did not slow down and in no time completed his fifty off 24 balls. On the back of Munro's power-packed fifty, Islamabad raced off to 77 in the powerplay. 

Munro's ultra-aggressive approach caught him in trouble and he was dismissed by Mohammad Nawaz. The United lost a clutch of wickets leading them into some trouble, but run-rate was not a problem for Islamabad. 

However, the onus came once again on Azam Khan to take his team home. He had a solid partnership of 58 runs with Faheem Ashraf to bring Islamabad back into the game. 

In the penultimate over, Islamabad lost two wickets, which included the wicket of in-form Azam Khan. However, Faheem kept his calm and finished the game by cracking boundaries in the last over.

Brief Scores

Quetta Gladiators: 179/6 (20 overs)
Najibullah Zadran 59(34), Mohammad Nawaz 52(44)
Fazalhaq Farooqi 3/25, Faheem Ashraf 2/29

Islamabad United: 183/8 (19.3 overs)
Colin Munro 63(29), Faheem Ashraf 39*(31)
Umaid Asif 3/37, Mohammad Nawaz 2/17

Match Result: Islamabad United won by 2 wickets