Islamabad United 220 for 6 (Azam 97, Asif 42, Smith 2-41) to beat Quetta Gladiators 157 all out (Hafeez 48, Sarfaraz 41, Farooqi 3-28) for 63 runs
It was a contest between an elite PSL team and, frankly, a PSL that once was. The Quetta Gladiators have been the league’s poorest side since winning their only trophy in 2019, falling to their 23rd defeat in 35 games against red-hot Islamabad United. Azam Khan displayed an abundance of manic batting, hitting 97 from 42 balls to help United score 220 – the highest score in this year’s PSL. United’s spin bowlers ensured that the Gladiators would be no match, taking four of the first six wickets as the chase fizzled out, giving United a 63-run victory.
United opted to bat first for the second time in their history, and in the first overs they appeared to have misjudged. Mohammad Hasnain continued his little bruise, outlasting Rassie van der Dussen and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. United limped to 39-2 on Powerplay and took eight overs to reach 50.
But Azam had just arrived and would form a partnership with Asif Ali that was almost violent in its relentlessness. The pair added 98 runs in 7.3 overs, dealing, for a time, not just in bounds, but almost exclusively in sixes. 15 sixes flew out of the ground in the final 12 overs, the gladiators in disarray as they watched vintage United make mincemeat from what had been an encouraging start.
While Asif was a competent support act, it was really all about Azam. This was an innings that showed why he is considered one of Pakistan’s top hitters. The fall 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 sweep from Hasnain from the outside to a corner 102m six over the cow could turn out to be the shot of the tournament, one that crystallized Azam’s innate elegance and brutality.
By this time, the gladiators were exhausted. Although Azam was tricked by a slower ball from Odean Smith on the last ball of the innings to deprive him of the hundred he so richly deserved, it wasn’t before United moved up 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 dashed those hopes before the chase even started, Abrar Ahmed piercing through both England defences, while Fazalhaq Farooqi cleared Guptill. In 3.1 overs, the trio was gone, as were the Gladiators’ realistic hopes.
Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed turned back the clock with an amusing 69-run partnership, but they were just delaying the inevitable. Iftikhar Ahmed was also good for some spirited jabs as the gladiators tried to salvage an already beleaguered net run rate. But the end came quickly when Shadab Khan eliminated Sarfaraz and Mohammad Nawaz in one fell swoop. Hasan Ali contributed another double as the Gladiators lost their last six wickets within 4.1 overs.
The Gladiators’ last three campaigns in the PSL have all ended in first-round exits, and despite being only halfway through this year’s tournament, it’s becoming impossible to see another fate for what was once the most consistent team in the league.