Having started their PSL campaign with a fine victory over Lahore Qalandars, Islamabad were handed a five-wicket defeat by Multan Sultans on Saturday.
With games rolling in thick and fast in the fourth edition of the PSL, there will be no time for Mohammad Sami’s men to reflect on their defeat as they get ready to play their third match in just four days at Dubai on Sunday.
While their batting was highly impressive in the tournament opener against Lahore, it failed as a unit against Multan in a low-scoring affair. Last season’s top run-getter Luke Ronchi has carried off from where he left off with two superb innings so far but the two other overseas recruits in Cameron Delport and Philip Salt have failed to really get going.
What Islamabad have going for them is their deep batting-order with capable batsmen all the way down to number nine although their performance on Saturday did not do justice in that regard.
Sami’s men will be hoping that Saturday’s loss was just a minor blip and the form of Shadab Khan with the ball will give the Islamabad skipper plenty of confidence. The star leg-spinner was among the wickets against Multan with two scalps and was economical as well with his four overs costing just 20 runs.
Quetta Gladiators, on the other hand, started off their PSL campaign with a comfortable six-wicket win over Peshawar Zalmi on Friday and will have the advantage of an extra day’s rest when they face Islamabad.
Umar Akmal was the start of Quetta’s win over Peshawar with the former Pakistan international striking a fluent unbeaten 75 (50) to guide his team across the finish line. The younger Akmal sibling could be the game-changer for Quetta going forward if he can keep up that impressive form.
However, skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will demand a lot more from openers Ahmed Shehzad and Shane Watson with the former falling for a golden duck in Friday’s win while the latter was scratchy in his brief innings of 19.
The bowling looked good in the campaign opener with Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Irfan impressing while youngster Ghulam Mudassar also gave a terrific account of himself.
The one worry for Sarfraz though, would be whether to stick with leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed with the Australian proving expensive against Peshawar.
Islamabad United do not have any injury concerns as of now but playing three matches in four days could take its toll on the players and it would not be surprising to see Sami make a couple of changes in the playing XI.
Quetta, meanwhile, will once again have to do without the services of their star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo who remains away on Big Bash League duty with the Melbourne Stars.
Islamabad United: Luke Ronchi (wk), Rizwan Hussain, Cameron Delport, Hussain Talat, Philip Salt, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Samit Patel, Mohammad Sami, Waqas Mahmood.
Quetta Gladiators: Ahmed Shehzad, Shane Watson, Rilee Rossouw, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (c and wk), Dwayne Smith, Mohammad Nawaz, Ghulam Mudassar, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Irfan, Fawad Ahmed
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis hailed a super-human effort from Sri Lankan batsman Kusal Perera who played one of the greatest Test knocks of all time to secure a one-wicket win in the Durban Test.
The Lankans were on the verge of defeat when they subsided to 110-5 and 226-9 chasing 304 but Kusal held his nerve with an astonishing 153 not out to get them over the line. His knock contained 12 fours and five sixes while he provided the bulk of the runs in an unbroken stand of 78 with Vishwa Fernando – the highest partnership for the last wicket in a successful chase in Test history.
After Perera’s monumental effort that was arguably one of the finest Test innings of all time that secured one of the greatest ever wins, South African captain Faf du Plessis hailed the Sri Lankan’s match-winning effort.
“It was a superman effort,” Du Plessis said. “He (Perera) deserves all the accolades. Very disappointing to end on the losing side.
“I think we were 50 runs short in the first innings and another 30-50 in the second. But I still thought 300 was enough but great batting took it away from us. We lost Vern (Vernon Philander to injury), but with three seamers and Keshav (Maharaj, spinner), I still backed my side. You have to give credit where it’s due,” the skipper added.
Man of the match Perera was at a loss of words after his knock. “I am bit tired now,” Kusal said. “I don’t know what to say. The lower order supported me well. This is a special win for us. We did a lot of homework, a lot of hard work.”
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who inherited a side without batsmen Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal and with three main fast bowlers injured, lauded the fight shown by his players.
“We have lost a lot of matches in the last few years, so it’s a proud moment for us, the team, and for me as captain. Kusal batted really well. Getting a hundred in South Africa is not easy, against this fast bowling attack.”
Sri Lanka’s hopes seemed to be all but faded at the end of day three when they were reduced to 83-3 in their chase of 304. That task was looking all the more improbable for the tourists once Odasha Fernando and Niroshan Dickwella fell within the space of three deliveries in the morning session of day four at Durban.
However, Perera came out swinging in what will go down as one of the best Test innings of all-time to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt.
The left-hander forged a 96-run stand for the sixth wicket along with Dhananjay de Silva to give Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope before Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj’s three quick strikes reduced the visitors to 226-9.
With just last man Vishwa Fernando for company, Perera turned on the style as he went on the offensive at Durban. The 28-year-old registered his second Test century but the battle was still an uphill one for Sri Lanka which just one wicket to play with.
Perera though, shielded the tailender in a mighty effective manner while he continued to strike some lusty blows from his end. The Sri Lanka middle-order batsman took on South Africa’s pacers Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada, striking a total of five sixes before clinching a dramatic win with a boundary which also brought up his 150.
The unbroken 78-run stand between Perera and Fernando is the highest ever recorded for the 10th wicket in any Test win in history.
Earlier on day three, Sri Lanka had picked up five wickets for just eight runs to bundle out South Africa for 259 runs in their second innings.
Sri Lanka now lead the two-match series 1-0 with the second and final Test between the two sides set to get underway at Port Elizabeth on February 21.
South Africa: 235 and 259
Sri Lanka: 191 and 304-9
Kusal Perera: 153 not out (200)
Dhanajaya de Silva: 48 (79)