PSL 2021: Why Did Islamabad United Fall Away at the End?

Islamabad United were the most successful team in the PSL 6 group stage, but were eliminated after losing two playoffs.

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“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

Islamabad United had endured a difficult PSL 5 where they finished dead last. Change was the need of the hour. Two key decisions before the season even started would shape their title charge for the better.

Alex Hales/Colin Ingram Trade & Hasan Ali Wildcard Pick

The first would be the acquisition of Alex Hales at the expense of Colin Ingram. Hales had an excellent PSL 5 in which he was by far the best overseas batter, while Ingram had produced middling returns for Islamabad. That pattern would continue this season as Hales finished with the best Powerplay strike rate of the season, essentially finishing off chases in the first six overs.

Alex Hales

 

Colin Ingram

272

PSL 5 Runs

206

45.3

PSL 5 Average

29.42

148.6

PSL 5 Strike Rate

150.4

139

PSL 6 Runs

26

34.8

PSL 6 Average

8.7

171.6

PSL 6 Strike Rate

66.7

When Hales was unable to join United for the Abu Dhabi leg, it would’ve been a mortal blow for most teams, but Islamabad had a replacement. Colin Munro was retained by Islamabad before the original PSL 6 draft but was unavailable for the Karachi leg. So, when he returned to them in the Abu Dhabi leg, he made sure Hales absence wasn’t felt.

Hales in PP (PAK)

 

Munro in PP (UAE)

63.0

Average

53.3

190.9

Strike Rate

164.9

2.87

BpB

3.59

41%

% SR better than mean

29%

The second decision that would majorly influence the season was the coaxing of Hasan Ali into their setup. The now experienced fast bowler seems to be in the prime of his career where everything he touches turns to gold. His introduction gave a young attack a leader to look up to and emulate.

Hasan Ali in PSL 6  

Overs

39.5

Wickets

13

Average

20.7

Economy

6.8

Powerplay SR

28.5

Middle Overs Average

34.0

Death Economy

7.3

But perhaps his biggest contribution to Islamabad’s cause was his death bowling. They went from the most expensive team at the death in PSL 5 to the least expensive, largely down to him conceding death runs at a scarcely believable 7.3 runs to the over.

Team

PSL 5

PSL 6

Karachi Kings

10.12

11.55

Lahore Qalandars

11.13

10.02

Multan Sultans

8.19

9.41

Islamabad United

11.48

8.78

Quetta Gladiators

10.09

12.69

Peshawar Zalmi

9.48

12.11

Batting Depth

United prided themselves in their ability to bat deep. It has resulted in some outstanding recoveries, with the lower order bailing them out on multiple occasions after the top order had failed. In addition, their lower order strength allowed the batsmen at the top to play freely, resulting in them attacking early and putting their opposition on the back foot. It is an excellent strategy that served them well throughout the season until the playoffs… But it wasn’t “over attacking” that would get them in trouble there but rather the inability of their batsmen in the middle overs to play at a rate that was required of them.

United wouldn’t lose a single game chasing this season until they came across Multan Sultans in the Qualifier. The Powerplay had been uncharacteristically bad for them, largely down to the dismissal of Munro early on. At 38/3, they proceeded to play six more overs for 36 runs at a run rate of 6.0 while chasing 181. The required run-rate rose from a still manageable 10.67 to an insurmountable 13.38.

Similarly, in the eliminator vs. Zalmi, Islamabad would be off to a typically rollicking start at 57/2 but once again slowed down to a near stop as they lost wickets and scored only 53 runs in the middle overs at a run rate of 5.3. It was only thanks to an enterprising cameo from Hasan Ali that they got to 174, but Zalmi’s comfortable chase proves that that was only a par score.

All Teams

 

Islamabad United

66%

% matches won while chasing

86%

34%

% matches won while defending

40%

Spin Problems

While their pace bowling was in ship shape, Islamabad’s spin attack struggled to have a similar impact as they conceded their runs at the 2nd worst economy rate.

Team Avg Eco
Peshawar Zalmi 48.4 9.28
Islamabad United 41.9 9.05
Quetta Gladiators 29.3 8.49
Karachi Kings 40.6 7.73
Multan Sultans 22.5 7.63
Lahore Qalandars 19.3 6.44

This was largely down to the lack of form of their skipper – Shadab Khan – who had a few good games, but his overall numbers remain uninspiring. He continued to bat up the order like he had last season but struggled to recreate the success that had seen no local batsman score more runs than him at a better strike rate.

PSL 5

 

PSL 6

Batting

263

Runs

94

37.6

Average

10.4

159.4

Strike Rate

104.4

Bowling

8

Wickets

9

29.4

Average

36.1

8.2

Economy

8.3

Emerging Player

At the draft, United made the excellent decision of drafting Mohammad Wasim as their emerging player. The youngster has been touted by many as the next big thing, and his performance this season has often indicated why. A dependable powerplay bowler with the ability to bowl yorkers at the death is gold dust, even before considering his batting. Nevertheless, he will be a tad disappointed on how he fell off at the latter half of the season after an impressive start, with a majority of his second-half wickets coming at the end of a dead rubber vs. Multan.

 

Overs

Wickets

Average

Economy

First 6 games

22

6

23.2

6.3

Last 5 games

18

6

32.8

10.9

Conclusion

Ultimately, middle overs bowling (i.e., spin) and batting may have cost Islamabad their third title. It is at times a happy quirk of life that champion teams don’t always end up champions, although Islamabad may not agree with the happy part right now. In their first PSL season, they won the title after finishing third as they saw the team that topped the table – Peshawar Zalmi – crash out, squandering both of their routes to the final. Five years later, the shoe is on the other foot.

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