Islamabad United’s pursuit of retaining the Pakistan Super League was injected with new life thanks to a five-wicket win over Quetta Gladiators, orchestrated by the brilliance of Sam Billings.
Billings’ match-winning 78* was a thing of beauty, lifting an Islamabad side still swaying from the spot fixing scandal that has left a smear stain on the tournament.
Early on, all eyes were on Islamabad’s Mohammad Irfan after being cleared of any wrongdoing in those fixing claims upon his return to the team.
Nicknamed Islamabad’s very own Burj Khalifa by team-mate Billings, Irfan failed to make an impact but seeing him back in a red shirt provided a boost to the reigning champions.
For Quetta, Kevin Pietersen’s woes with the bat continued, his valiant effort in his bat carrying support for saving the rhino unable to coincide with a successful salvage job on his own poor form.
The former England man suffered his second successive golden duck of the tournament, meaning he has just three runs from nine balls in three PSL outings this season.
With the likes of compatriot Luke Wright and local lad Bismillah Khan itching for a go in the Quetta dugout, the time will soon come when Pietersen’s position in the team will be under threat despite being the franchise’s marquee signing.
Islamabad United beat Quetta Gladiators
- Quetta Gladiators 148-6
- Shafiq (45); Watson (2-22)
- Islamabad United 149-5
- Billings (78*); Nawaz (2-18)
The in-form Rilee Rossouw – who scored 60 and 76* respectively in his previous two outings – departed for just seven, Quetta struggling on a typically tacky wicket.
Asad Shafiq anchored the innings with 45 from 42 balls before a late charge from Mahmudullah (29*) and Thisara Perera (27) saw them to a competitive 148-6.
Islamabad’s night and day opening pair of belligerent Sam Billings and steady hand Dwayne Smith took up the challenge before the latter departed for 10 from 15 balls, nine of which were dots.
Smith’s pace was in stark contrast to the bludgeoning Billings who bristled throughout, finding the boundary with more regularity than any batsmen on display.
Equally, the Englishman looked the most elegant and in tune with both conditions and his game.
Billings used his feet to perfection against spin and played everything late, attributes so crucial to success in Sharjah on wickets where the ball sticks in the pitch.
He was aided by some brutal Shane Watson (36) hitting before Billings fittingly sealed a much-needed victory for his team by smashing the first ball of the last over for four.