MULTAN: On Sunday, Islamabad United gained a foothold at a raucous Multan Cricket Stadium against the Multan Sultans, a team that thrives at their home ground. But then came Usama Mir’s over, tipping the HBL Pakistan Super League in his favor. A similar situation had occurred earlier in the Sultans’ innings, with the loss of two wickets, only for David Miller to play a blinder, ably supported by Kieron Pollard, to power his side to 190-4.
That responsibility fell to Rassie van der Dussen and Azam Khan for United, who were down to 90-4 by the end of the 11th over, but a sustained counterattack never materialized, with the latter having his timber knocked back by Abbas Afridi (4-22) before the pacer returned in the 17th over to dismiss the South African and end the match as a contest.
United then crumbled like dominoes, with Abbas taking a superb catch off his own bowling to dismiss Faheem Ashraf and then catching Mohammad Wasim Jr behind.
Mohammad Rizwan, the wicket-keeper, and captain, then took an impressive diving catch on the run to dismiss Tom Curran, giving Ihsanullah (2-19) his first wicket, and the fast bowler then dismissed tailender Abrar Ahmed to dismiss United for 138 with just over two overs to spare.
The Sultans’ 52-run win was their third in a row after starting the season with a one-run loss to defending champions Lahore Qalandars, while United struggled after a comprehensive victory over Karachi Kings in their first match.
When United’s captain Shadab Khan trapped Rizwan (50) with a flighted delivery halfway through the 13th over, they felt they had let the Sultans off the hook for electing to field. Rizwan had seen the in-form Rilee Rossouw (36) depart five balls earlier, the southpaw finding his compatriot van der Dussen at the square-leg fence to end a 91-run stand after opener Shan Masood was caught at gully off Rumman Raees.
Miller then put on an incredible display of power hitting, pummeling Shadab shortly after arriving at the crease. The spinner’s first three deliveries in the 15th over cleared the ropes, with the first six down long-off and the second and third wider than the first. Miller would finish that over with a boundary before hitting a four off Curran on the final ball of the next over.
In the 17th over, Pollard (32 not out) got in on the act, smashing Rumman down the ground for six first balls and then seeing his outside edge fly to the backward point boundary.
Miller took command in the next over, hitting Wasim for four and six before holing out to Faheem on the extra cover boundary off Wasim on the final ball of the innings, having made 52 off 25 balls. But Pollard finished the innings with style, hitting three fours in a row.
United began the chase with ambition, particularly the young Hasan Nawaz, who was unfazed by the early loss of his opening partner Paul Stirling and drove Mohammad Ilyas (2-12) straight to Miller at mid-on. Hasan hit two fours and a six off Khushdil Shah, but Ilyas ended his enterprising 21-run knock, with Usama completing the dismissal with a superb catch.
Munro (31) and van der Dussen (49) then got involved, with the New Zealander getting off to a good start with a big six of Carlos Brathwaite and van der Dussen getting a four before the South African improvised and flicked Ihsanullah for a six over fine leg. After eighteen deliveries without a boundary, Munro took on Usama (2-33), driving the spinner for four through the offside and then smashing a six over long-on.
But Usama came back in the 11th over to change the game, first dismissing Munro with a googly with Rizwan taking a sharp catch and then sending back Shadab, who died on the boundary in an attempt to accelerate. Azam hammered Usama for four and six as he returned to bowl his final over, but then came the Abbas show, and the Sultans cruised to victory.