Home » PSL 7: Match 5 – Islamabad United v Peshawar Zalmi

PSL 7: Match 5 – Islamabad United v Peshawar Zalmi

Ben Jones looks at a blistering chase from Islamabad, and the effect of their batting depth.

Islamabad United opened their account in PSL7 with a devastatingly effective victory over Peshawar Zalmi, chasing down 168 with more than four overs to spare. Early wickets for Faheem Ashraf set the tone for Shadab Khan’s side, but it was a brutal spell of Powerplay hitting from Alex Hales and Paul Stirling which defined the day.

Having been reduced to 35-4, Peshawar had done well to manage a strong rebuild and counter-attack, with veteran Shoaib Malik partnering Sherfane Rutherford as the Guyanese import struck a skilful 70* (46), dragging Wahab Riaz’s team to what felt at halfway like a competitive, only slightly under-par total. The success of Islamabad’s slower ball variations – three wickets from the 11 deliveries bowled below 120kph – suggested that the surface was not as straightforward for batting as in other matches we have seen so far this season. However, that illusion lasted a matter of minutes into Islamabad’s reply.

Wahab himself was taken for 16 runs in his first over as Stirling smashed a quartet of fours, the most expensive opening over the left-arm quick has delivered in any T20 match. Sohail Khan’s first over disappeared for 17, and an early turn to spin with Usman Qadir matched that blow for blow. After three overs, Islamabad had plundered 50 unbeaten runs, the highest score ever in the PSL at that stage of an innings. The pace off strategy of Englishman Pat Brown brought brief respite as the fourth over went for just six runs, but that Zalmi fightback did not last long – the last two overs before the field went back added another 22 to the score. The eventual Powerplay total, 78-0, is the equal fourth highest in the history of the competition. The required rate had been reduced from more than 8rpo at the start of the chase, to less than a run a ball. A game that was in the balance, was as good as won.

It should not be a surprise, given the two men at the crease. Both Stirling and Hales have been right up there in the last few years in terms of Powerplay striking; while the Englishman has the higher profile and a more consistent run of overseas opportunities, Stirling’s numbers are almost as impressive. There will be other options – plenty – but whoever signs Jonny Bairstow in the IPL auction could do worse than signing Stirling as a backup for when Bairstow heads off to England for Test duty. 

While the onslaught of early runs that we saw today is rare, when we do see it, it tends to come from Islamabad. Of the top eight highest Powerplay scores in PSL, four have come from the men in red (or, disappointingly for those who enjoyed the previous kit, dark pink), and the prioritising of Powerplay hitting has always been associated with the Islamabad side, right back to the days of Luke Ronchi. 

Not unrelatedly, there has always been a clean, logical strain to Islamabad United’s recruitment. Having identified an obvious surplus of domestic pace bowlers available in Pakistan, and a relative dearth of domestic batting options, they tailored their signings accordingly – overseas batsmen (particularly top order, ultra-aggressive players), and domestic quicks were targeted. Critics often accuse data-led sides (which Islamabad are, unashamedly) of overthinking and overcomplicating things. That may be the case on occasion, but the best data analysis offers these sorts of elegant, clear strategies, while those relying on instinct and gut feel are the ones who find themselves overthinking, tying themselves in knots.

Over a decent period of time Islamabad’s approach has brought them great success, and the XI they put out today – which shouldn’t see too many changes as the season progresses, save for the return of Colin Munro – was striking not just in its quality, but in the depth of destructive batting it offered, with effective hitters all the way down. Hasan Ali is a man who, were he batting at No.8, you would feel offered significant hitting depth – and he’s lining up at No.10. In some respects, innings like the one we saw today are a better case for why batting depth matters, than any number of games where the No.8 smokes the ball around the park at the death. The freedom which comes from knowing those below you can handle themselves with that bat, is tough to measure but clearly invaluable. On a good surface with a middling target, Hales and Stirling were always likely to go hard, but in this set-up they can do so with very little risk associated.

Another notable exponent of batting depth, the England T20I side, have often achieved that quality by packing the side with batting all-rounders like Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, as well as Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran in recent times. What Islamabad have done is go in the opposite direction; all of Shadab Khan, Mohammed Wasim Jnr, and Faheem Ashraf could be described as bowling all-rounders, and the label could even be extended to Hasan Ali himself. While the attack lacks a little flexibility in terms of spin options – unless the Emerging Player Mubasir Khan develops quickly – it is close to a complete team in terms of balance, a testament to excellent recruitment and team construction.

Islamabad will face sterner tests than today of course, and likely at the next available opportunity. Tuesday sees Shadab’s men taking on reigning champions Multan Sultans, who have started the season at a flying pace. But for now, Islamabad fans can be hyped, and optimistic about the chances of a side playing expressive, attacking cricket, in their own inimitable style.

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

Latest Posts

CricViz agrees three-year deal to support Delhi Capitals in the WPL tournament. LONDON AND DELHI, February 11, 2023: CricViz, …

February 11, 2023

CricViz hires experienced cricket administrator Zorol Barthley to lead expansion in the Americas LONDON, February 9, 2023: CricViz, the…

February 9, 2023

CricViz achieved a major breakthrough in our broadcast offering during the first Test between Australia and West Indies at…

December 5, 2022