Islamabad United 151 for 7 (Gregory 49*, Brathwaite 2-23) beat Multan Sultans 150 for 8 (Rizwan 71, Wasim 3-29) by three wickets
Lewis Gregory dragged Islamabad United across the line in their season opener against Multan Sultans in Karachi with 49 not out from 31 balls to seal a three-wicket win with six balls to spare.
Mohammad Rizwan underpinned the Sultans’ total of 150 after they had been asked to bat, but despite posting the highest score of the season’s opening weekend, they looked short of par, not least having been 92 for 3 after 11 overs. The United’s chase was derailed by the Shahid Afridi show in the middle overs, as they slumped to 74 for 6 after 11.1 overs, but Gregory’s cameo saw them home.
The United had won two of the first three PSL titles but failed to reach the play-offs for the first time in 2020, finishing bottom of the league stage and winning only three of their 10 fixtures. But they have recruited well ahead of this season, with Alex Hales, Gregory and Hasan Ali among the star names to join the squad, and have started with a win despite not quite clicking.
Star of the day
Gregory underwhelmed for Brisbane Heat in the BBL, but starred on debut for his new franchise. With the ball, he removed his compatriot James Vince, who slashed him to deep third man, and had Khushdil Shah caught at long-on. His final over, the 17th, cost only six runs as he finished with 2 for 31 from his four overs.
But he was the United’s match-winner with the bat, ruthlessly targeting Sohail Tanvir at the death and hitting him for 26 off 11 balls in all. With 20 needed from 11 balls, he hit Tanvir for a six then three fours to finish the job, picking his gaps with strong shots around the ground. Gregory was aided by Faheem Ashraf, who chipped in with a cameo of 22 off 12.
Tragic hero of the day
It was a great injustice that Afridi ended up on the losing side after taking 2 for 24 from his four overs. His returns with the bat have dried up as his career has worn on, as evidenced by his first-ball duck, but he shows no sign of age with the ball, continuing to evolve as a bowler. On Sunday night, he mainly bowled from very wide on the crease, looking for his trademark drift at pace, and consistently landed the ball on a good length, attacking the top of the stumps.
His first strike was vintage Afridi. The in-form Hales had reached an ominous 28 off 17 in the powerplay, looking like a banker to continue his run-scoring streak from the Big Bash, but he failed to pick up the length as Afridi fired one through at 60.5mph/97.4kph with a characteristic spring in his action. Hales went back when he should have come forward, and was foxed by an in-drifter which pegged back middle stump.
Afridi was hit for six in his second over, as Hussain Talat top-edged a reverse-sweep, but struck with the first ball of his third, deceiving Asif Ali in the flight as he picked out Vince at long-on. That left the United at 73 for 4, needing a partnership to keep their hopes alive.
The champagne moment arrived five balls later. Talat nudged him towards short midwicket and set off for a single, and Afridi pounced in his follow-through. In one smooth motion, he picked up and hurled the ball at the keeper’s end, his direct hit leaving Iftikhar Ahmed stranded a long way short of his ground. Having celebrated in his trademark manner for his two wickets, Afridi could not contain himself, instead setting off on an Imran Tahir-style run and punching the air in celebration.
After shelling a straightforward catch at mid-off in the 16th over, he held a similar chance four balls later and hurled the ball into the ground, frustrated at his earlier mistake. He celebrates his 41st birthday in eight days but Afridi’s enthusiasm for the game is unrelenting.
Miss of the day
Perhaps an unexpected choice, after he continued from where he had left off in Pakistan’s T20I series against South Africa by racing to a 31-ball half-century, but Rizwan’s deceleration ended up costing his new franchise. Rizwan struggled badly for rhythm at the death, adding only 21 runs off his last 22 balls, and bizarrely decided to play out Shadab Khan’s final over just as he should have been looking to hit out. Multan’s total was 10 or 15 short of what it could and should have been due to his slowdown – though he lacked support from the rest of the top order.
Mohammad Wasim, who was playing for Pakistan at the Under-19 World Cup just over a year ago, made his first professional T20 appearance and was hugely impressive. He conceded a couple of boundaries in his first over, the fourth, but varied his pace well in his second.
He picked up his first PSL wicket when Sohaib Maqsood holed out to deep midwicket, but it was his final over that stood out: he ripped through Rizwan with a searing yorker that tailed in to knock out off stump, and dismissed Afridi a ball later as he looked to drag him into the leg side. Overall figures of 3 for 29 were a fair reflection of an excellent debut.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98