Imad Wasim and Haider Ali Heroics Lead Islamabad United to an Unlikely Final Berth

Islamabad United executed a dramatic turnaround to stun Peshawar Zalmi in the nail-biting second eliminator, thwarting their attempt to reach the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final the most times. This thrilling encounter unfolded on a warm Saturday night, March 16, in Karachi, delivering an edge-of-the-seat spectacle for cricket aficionados. Chasing a formidable 186 for victory, Islamabad United, at one point languishing at 91 for 5 wickets, seemed to be handing Zalmi a ticket to the PSL 2024 final against the Multan Sultans. However, fate took an unexpected twist as Imad Wasim and Haider Ali stitched together an undefeated 98-run partnership from a mere 48 balls. Their herculean efforts propelled the Men in Red to their third PSL final in nine seasons, and their first since their title run in 2018.

Despite Peshawar Zalmi’s captain Babar Azam having a slow start, his team initially took the game by storm, thanks to Saim Ayub’s blistering half-century. Ayub’s aggressive play put the United bowlers on the defensive, overshadowing Azam’s subdued performance. By the time Azam made 25, Ayub had maintained his aggressive posture. The latter’s stellar innings was brought to a halt after a powerful 73 off 44 balls, setting the groundwork for a potentially high score. Mohammad Haris entered the fray, dealing out heavy blows to the bowlers, enabling them to cruise along the asking rate with his contribution of 40 runs before being caught out.

The pendulum seemed to swing when Rovman Powell struggled at the crease, leading to Zalmi’s waning momentum evidenced by a loss of three key wickets in under three overs. Just when it looked like Zalmi might fail to reach a competitive score, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Aamer Jamal played enterprising cameos towards the innings’ close. These efforts led Zalmi to post a respectable 185—a solid total, but one that could arguably have been increased by an additional 10 to 15 runs had they carried on their mid-innings dominance.

Zalmi’s bowlers came out with a sense of purpose, appearing to make the target insurmountable for the Islamabad side. Apart from Martin Guptill, the top order of Islamabad United faltered, with batsmen failing to establish themselves at the crease. Just when things appeared dire for United, a vital stand between Azam Khan and Imad Wasim injected much-needed life into the chase. Azam’s untimely dismissal could have tipped the scales in Zalmi’s favor, but they were unprepared for the onslaught that followed.

Wasim and Haider proceeded to dismantle the Zalmi bowling attack, aggressively pursuing the target with assured, tactical striking. Their combined effort saw balls rocketing to all parts of the field as the Men in Yellow succumbed to a second consecutive playoff loss. In a dominant display, United chased down the score in just 19 overs, displaying a clinical edge that will surely give them a psychological boost heading into the final.

Islamabad United’s resilience sets up a tantalizing clash with Mohammad Rizwan’s formidable Multan Sultans, slated for March 18. With both teams vying for glory, the anticipation for the PSL 2024 final is at its peak. As for the Zalmi, it was a blow to their championship aspirations, leaving them to ponder over what might have been, had they managed to stem the red tide that eventually overcame them. Now, it’s over to the grand finale, where a new champion will lift the coveted PSL trophy, marking another chapter in the storied annals of Pakistan’s premiere T20 competition.

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