United had won eight out of their 10 league stage matches and were at the top of the table with 16 points. This is a record that Islamabad United despite being eliminated from the race of qualification for the final, no other franchise has ever ended league stage with 16 points.
In fact, there were 4 franchises which had gotten 10 points each, way behind the magnificent achievement of Islamabad United in PSL6. All the experts and cricket intelligentsia predicted that it’s red storm which will rock this year’s final as no side can match the kind of strength and balance United currently have.
Just few days before they out of race for the finals, Usman Khawaja had scored an outstanding century as a part time captain, Colin Munro had chased down a target against defending Champions Karachi Kings in just 10 overs, Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmad had given a solid recovery after being 24/4 against then favourites Lahore Qalandars, bowlers were in the business and it looked as if local players are going to pay off this year since United was fully relying on their local talent.
Let’s have a look at some of the areas where United struggled in the knock out stage.
Lack of Responsibility in the Batting Department
This quite an outstanding in T20s. Khawaja’s fellow kiwi opener, Colin Munro, was ahead of Khawaja. He scored 285 in the tournament with an average of 57 and strike rate of 170. This is simply outstanding stuff from United’s top order.
Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmad don’t average very high but remained prominent in the middle order. Asif Ali smoked the ball for fun this year, scored with a strike rate of 167 that was quite competitive in the tournament.
United could bat till no.10 as Muhammad Wasim came at no.10 against Peshawar Zalmi in eliminator 2 and scored valuable runs alongside Hasan Ali. Prior to him, Fahim Ashraf had come at the same number in the qualifier. This form of batters and depth in batting line-up was what made them them favourites for the tournament but in their knock out games, it was United’s batting which struggled the most.
In the qualifier, Sultans had challenged this batting line-up with a target of 180 and surprisingly, United showed lack of confidence from the very first ball. Early wickets fell down and team struggled to recover again. Khawaja scored 70 off 40 but found no support from the other end.
He produced two partnerships of 40 and 50 with Iftikhar Ahmad and Hussain Talat respectively but both fellow partners failed to play shots freely, their strike rate couldn’t cross 100 which put pressure on Khawaja who scored 36 off 15 alongside Talat and finally threw his wicket to Sohail Tanvir. Team failed to recover and was bowled out for 149 with an over to spare.
In their next game, United were asked to bat first by Peshawar Zalmi who succeeded in getting early wickets of United. Munro and Brendon King had a 56 runs stand on 3rd wicket but once both were bowled, wickets started tumbling and in no time, United were 70/2 to 111/8. It was Hasan Ali’s 45 off 16 balls which kept the game interesting as United posted a competitive total of 175.
In both the knock out games, it was the lack of responsibility of their batters which kept them from rocking the game. In UAE, you can’t win a game if someone doesn’t anchor the inning. You need to have certain plans if you want to score big.
In United’s case, it looked as if they know just one way of playing. Akhlaq, Iftikhar and Shadab were batting in their middle order and even at the end of league stage, the greatest fans of Shadab and Alhlaq could tell that they aren’t what United’s management has supposed them to be.
Shadab Khan had a good tournament with the bat in the previous PSL in Pakistan, but since then, he hasn’t come up with any serious knock. Still the management of United gave him 11 chances in 11 games to bat in the middle order. He often threw his wicket away while facing quality seam attack in the powerplay.
Rusty Bowling in big games
Bowlers are given some roles and plans, for example if you know that opposition has a hard hitter leftie, you must come up with an off spinner and a left arm pacer who would bowl with the angle to get the out side edge.
In their case, Islamabad United had no plans against in form batsmen of Multan Sultans. Sohaib Maqsood hit Islamabad bowlers for fun in his 59 runs knock. Khushdil Shah hit 4 sixes in a row against Akif Javed which shifted the momentum towards Sultans who had no plan to lose it and continued doing well in the field and bowling.
Youngsters like Akif Javed and Muhammad Wasim bowled with an expensive economy rate of 12.50 and 11 respectively in the all important contest for the championship. Their main gun, Hasan Ali, was a disappointment; he couldn’t get a single wicket in the match.
In their next game against Peshawar Zalmi, which turned out to be their last one, United’s Hasan Ali started his first over with two no balls in a row. When in form Hazrat Ullah Zazai and Jonathan Wells settled, no experiments were tried to get a wicket. This resulted into flow of runs once Zazai changed his gears and hit Shadab Khan three consecutive sixes.
United’s skipper bowled his most expensive spell of 4 overs in their most important game of the tournament. He conceded 55 runs in 4 overs and failed to provide any breakthrough. Hasan Ali and Muhammad Wasim also leaked runs and as a result, Zalmi chased their 175 runs target in 16.5 overs with 8 wickets to spare.