Islamabad United 220 for 6 (Azam 97, Asif 42, Smith 2-41) beat Quetta Gladiators 157 all out (Hafeez 48, Sarfaraz 41, Farooqi 3-28) by 63 runs
It was a contest between an elite PSL team, and, frankly, a PSL has-been. Quetta Gladiators have been the poorest side of this league since they lifted their only trophy in 2019, sliding to a 23rd loss in 35 games against a red-hot Islamabad United side. Azam Khan displayed a glut of manic power-hitting, smashing 97 in 42 balls to help United score 220 – the highest score at this year’s PSL. United’s spin bowlers ensured the Gladiators would be no match, taking four of the top six wickets as the chase fizzled out, handing United a 63-run win.
United had opted to bat first for just the second time in their history, and in the first few overs, appeared to have misjudged. Mohammad Hasnain continued his little purple patch, outfoxing Rassie van der Dussen and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. United limped to 39-2 in the Powerplay, and it took them eight overs to get to 50.
But Azam had only just arrived, and would strike up a partnership with Asif Ali that was almost violent in its relentlessness. The duo added 98 runs in 7.3 overs, dealing, for a while, not just in boundaries, but almost exclusively in sixes. 15 sixes flew out of the ground in the final 12 overs, Gladiators thrown into disarray as they watched vintage United make mincemeat out of what had been an encouraging start.
While Asif was an able support act, in truth, it was all about Azam. This was an innings that showed why he’s regarded as one of Pakistan’s premier power-hitters. The takedown of Naseem Shah, Aimal Khan and most memorably, Hasnain, in successive overs was a breathtaking passage of play, those five overs producing 83 runs. A pick-up sweep off Hasnain from wide outside off for a 102m six over cow corner might just end up being the shot of the tournament, one that crystallised Azam’s innate elegance and brutality.
By now, Gladiators had been run ragged. While Azam was deceived by an Odean Smith slower ball off the final ball of the innings to deprive him of the hundred he so richly deserved, it wasn’t before United had surged to 220.
The Gladiators’ chase relied heavily on the top three with them needing something special from Martin Guptill, Jason Roy and the returning Will Smeed. But United snuffed out those hopes before the chase even got going, Abrar Ahmed piercing through the defences of both Englishmen, while Fazalhaq Farooqi cleaned up Guptill. In 3.1 overs, the trio was gone, as were realistic Gladiators hopes.
Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed rolled back the years with an entertaining 69-run partnership, but were only delaying the inevitable. Iftikhar Ahmed, too, was good for a few lusty blows as the Gladiators looked to salvage an already beleaguered net run rate. But the end came quickly once Shadab Khan removed Sarfaraz and Mohammad Nawaz in one over. Hasan Ali chipped in with another couple as Gladiators lost their last six wickets inside 4.1 overs.
The last three PSL campaigns for Gladiators ended in first round elimination, and despite only being half-way through this year’s tournament, it’s becoming impossible to see any other fate for what was once the most consistent side in the league.