PSL 2019

Sultans outnumbered United in all aspects and scored second win of the season

Saddled with the responsibility of beating an awakening giant in Islamabad United to keep realistic hopes of progression alive, Multan Sultans put in a purposeful, clinical performance, securing an six-wicket win over the two-time champions. The victory was set up by a much-improved bowling performance; this, remember, is the attack that failed to defend 186 and 200 in their previous two games. The wickets were split amongst five different bowlers, and while Dan Christian took three in the ten balls he bowled towards the death, the pressure that piled up on Islamabad was thanks to the breakthroughs at the top by Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Ilyas.

Islamabad hadn’t helped themselves with their recklessness at the top of the order, but as long as Luke Ronchi was blazing away, they were confident the innings was on track. It was almost as if they only realised Multan had the upper hand when Ronchi holed out to long on after a breezy 16-ball 32 and the top three were back in the pavilion, the game barely four overs old.

Curiously, Multan’s only other win in five games prior to today this season also came against Islamabad. On that occasion, the men in red had been restricted to 125. Here, they were bowled out in the 18th over for 121, Christian clearing out the tail even as Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf tried to salvage something of the innings like Red Cross workers in a disaster zone.

Multan’s response began with the sort of cavalier approach that often works best for low-scoring chases, with almost half the runs accounted for in the Powerplay alone. Both James Vince and Umer Siddiq played free-flowing strokes, knowing the only way Islamabad had a sniff was building pressure through the run rate. Islamabad’s bowling, much like their batting, wasn’t up to the high standards they likely set; Mohammad Musa will win lots of matches (and plenty of hearts) as his career progresses, but today, he seemed unsure of his lines and lengths, the general lack of a game plan evident among all bowlers. Even Shadab Khan was erratic, a couple of good overs in the middle interspersed with several long hops that allowed Multan a release valve. Umer Siddiq was the most proficient in making his former side pay, top scoring with 46 to break the back of the chase.

When Vince and Johnson Charles were dismissed in quick succession by Shadab and Samit Patel – perhaps Islamabad’s best bowler on the night – Multan stuttered awhile. However, that slender passage of play aside, the performance had been a near perfect one. It allowed Shoaib Malik’s side to complete the double over the two-time champions. Much of Multan’s work is still ahead of them if they are to make the playoffs, but the can of near-certain elimination has at least been kicked further down the road.