The two-time champions made a good start to PSL 6, winning 3 of their first 4 games. Can they go all the way?
Performance So Far
After finishing at the bottom of the points table in PSL 5, Islamabad United have made a good comeback this season. They had won only three games last season. This year, they have the same number of wins after four matches. United are 3rd on the points-table with the same points as the first two teams with a game in hand.
Alex Hales, Lewis Gregory, and Phil Salt have become unavailable for the Abu Dhabi leg. Usman Khawaja will be joining United for the first time. Colin Munro has become available, so his replacement in the Karachi leg, Paul Stirling, will not be returning. Akif Javed, after recovering from injury, and Mohammad Akhlaq have also joined Islamabad. Two further late additions include West Indian opener Brandon King and batsman Uman Amin.
Will Replacements Benefit Islamabad?
Colin Munro’s return to Islamabad is a good sign for them. Although his replacement Paul Stirling is a good T20 opener, Munro has more PSL experience. He scored 248 runs for United in PSL 5 with an average and strike rate of 35 and 148. Only four players (Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, AB de Villiers, and Alex Hales) have scored more T20 runs than him at a better strike rate. The only concern regarding him is his poor performance in UAE. He has scored at an average and strike-rate below 20 and 125 respectively in 17 T20 innings in UAE.
Usman Khawaja has been pretty average with the bat in T20s. He is neither among the best top-order batsmen in T20s nor the worst. In 98 games, he has averaged around 29 with an SR of 127. This will be the first time he will be playing T20s in UAE.
Brandon King had a standout CPL season in 2019. However, he has had a torrid run since then, failing to make an impact in T20I and T20s alike. Since November 2019, he is averaging 13 at an SR of just 116 in T20 cricket – horrendous returns for a top-order batsman.
Umar Amin is likely to be a backup batting option. He provides a solid if unspectacular option for the top order and may come into the lineup depending on the team’s composition.
Akif Javed showed promising signs after making his PSL debut for Islamabad last season. His return would bring diversity to United’s 6-man pace attack (the other 5 are right-arm). Mohammad Akhlaq, a right-hand batsman and an occasional wicket-keeper, did well in the previous domestic season. He scored 50* (29) and 30 (18) in his only two innings in National T20 Cup 2020. In the 2021 Pakistan Cup (List A), he had a strike rate of 100+ and an average of 28.
The unavailability of Alex Hales and Lewis Gregory are troubling for Islamabad. Hales was their top run-scorer this season with a 170+ strike rate. Gregory won the Man of the Match award in one of his two games. Additionally, Phil Salt would have been useful for Islamabad in the absence of Hales. Though his stats in PSL are not impressive, his T20 strike rate of 150+ is pretty good.
In the past, Islamabad has relied mostly on foreign batsmen, especially in the top-order for the starting phase of innings. With Hales & Stirling available, they had the highest powerplay run-rate (10.3) among all teams this season. Now, with Khawaja, Munro, and the struggling King being the only foreign batting choices in the squad, Islamabad would have to start depending on their local batsmen too.
Will the Shift To Abu Dhabi Affect Islamabad?
Islamabad had a batting run rate of only 7.1 in the middle-overs (7-16) of PSL 6. They will have to rely mostly on their local batsmen in this phase of the innings. But their local batsmen have not been good players of spin. With the role of spinners increased in UAE, especially in the middle-overs, the team’s struggle might increase. All their local batsmen who have faced 100+ balls in PSL score more quickly against pacers than spinners.
Among their local batsmen, Asif Ali has the best strike rate against spinners. He is also the only local batsman besides Shahid Afridi in PSL who has a 150+ strike rate in UAE (min 100 runs).
Moving towards the bowling department, Islamabad’s pace-attack has done extremely well this season. They have the best average (22.4) and economy (7.0) among all the sides. Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf, two of their main pacers, were among the best pacers in UAE in PSL. This venue shift might prove to improve the pace attack of Islamabad further.
Zafar Gohar has the best strike rate among local bowlers with 10+ wickets during PSL in UAE (12.2). He has not been given consistent chances, but the move to Abu Dhabi can prove to be good for both Zafar and his team. Shadab Khan’s T20 stats in UAE are pretty good, too. He has taken 35 wickets (@ 24.2) with an economy of 6.4. Although this seems good for the side, their spinners, including Shadab, have been out of form recently. In the Karachi leg of PSL, they were the worst among all the sides. Islamabad would want them to come back in form with this shift to UAE.
Spinners in PSL 6
- Colin Munro (O)
- Rohail Nazir (WK)
- Usman Khawaja (O)
- Mohammad Akhlaq
- Shadab Khan*
- Asif Ali
- Faheem Ashraf
- Zafar Gohar
- Hasan Ali
- Mohammad Wasim jr
- Fawad Ahmed (O)
Islamabad United needs their momentum to continue and their local players to stand out to get their hands on their 3rd PSL Trophy.