Smith, Russell lead franchise to victory
After a spectacular display of fireworks lit up the start of the final of the inaugural Pakistan Super League, in Dubai, Dwayne Smith produced the cricketing equivalent of it, firing Islamabad United to the title. He struck 73 off 51 balls, 52 of which were scored through boundaries.
Smith’s effort had come after the bowlers, led by Andre Russell, pegged Quetta Gladiators back to 174, following equally fluent half-centuries from Ahmed Shehzad and Kumar Sangakkara. Islamabad captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who had termed the PSL final as a “World Cup” for his side at the toss, sealed the victory with a flick past midwicket and sparked off wild celebrations.
Smith, who had struggled to get the ball off the square during his 37-ball 19 in the third qualifier against Peshawar Zalmi, got into his shot-making stride right away today, cracking fours off his second and third balls. He then followed it up with a brace of fours in the next over off spinner Nathan McCullum, who was bowling for the first time in the tournament.
McCullum managed to bowl PSL’s only centurion Sharjeel Khan, who had been added to Pakistan’s World T20 and Asia Cup squads, for only 13, but Smith continued his slap-happy strokeplay and raised a fifty off 32 balls.
Smith was dismissed when he sent a top edge to Kevin Pietersen to backward point in the 16th over, but Brad Haddin, whose knock was a more measured one, remained unbeaten on 61 off 39 balls, his third fifty of the tournament. Islamabad ultimately won emphatically with six wickets and eight balls to spare.
They had begun on a positive note as well with fast bowler Mohammad Irfan striking in the first over to dismiss opener Bismillah Khan for a duck. Pietersen, playing his third T20 final, promised much before holing out to deep square leg for 18; Asif Ali completing an excellent catch. Sangakkara and Shehzad then married power and timing in an 87-run partnership, highlighted by Sangakkara’s extra-cover drive for six off Mohammad Sami, for the third wicket. The pair ensured that Quetta motored past 100 by the 13th over.
Sangakkara, however, was caught by Imran Khalid at long-off off Russell for 55, in the 15th over. His wicket set in motion a collapse as Quetta lost four wickets in four overs at the death. Anwar Ali swung wildly and connected six before he became Russell’s third victim. It meant that Russell went past Wahab Riaz to finish as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 16 scalps.
Grant Elliott lifted the last ball of the innings for a six, having mentor Sir Vivian Richards clapping until his hands hurt. Quetta’s joy, though, was short-lived.