Zazai, Wells and Irfan set up Peshawar Zalmi’s PSL final date with Multan Sultans

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The league stage suggested that Islamabad United were red-hot favourites for their third PSL title, but a comprehensive Peshawar Zalmi performance guaranteed that they wouldn’t even make it to the final.

A ruthless bowling performance from Zalmi was followed up by a clinical chase, spearheaded by the irrepressible Hazratullah Zazai and debutant Jonathan Wells. Their 126-run partnership led to an eight-wicket rout of Shadab Khan’s side, with the chase of 176 was achieved with more than three overs to spare.

Zalmi were on top from start to finish, aside from a four-over spell at the back-end of the first innings, where a spirited Hasan Ali knock ensured that United would at least remain competitive in the contest. The match began with an unfortunate run-out of Usman Khawaja when Shoaib Malik was controversially deemed to have got his foot to a ball that went on to clatter into the non-striker’s stumps. Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz kept a lid on things, even if Colin Munro cut loose from time to time, ending up as United’s most potent hope in the first half of the innings.

But it was the middle stages where Zalmi pulled clear. Amad Butt and Umaid Asif came back in strongly to pick up regular wickets, with Shadab, Iftikhar Ahmed and Brandon King all falling cheaply. There was a danger that United would end up being bowled out under 120 before Hasan’s brutal onslaught gave his side hope.

In reply, United kept Zazai on a leash for the most part, bowling away from his hitting arc. But the failure to get more wickets up top meant there was always the fear that Zalmi had enough firepower at the end to catch up with a climbing run rate. Wells and Zazai saw off the pressure without throwing their wickets away, the Australian doing particularly well in his first game to adjust to conditions and pace his innings accordingly. It was in Shadab’s third over that they cut loose, smashing the United captain for three sixes in four balls on a forgettable day for Shadab; he would go on to concede 55 in his four. He has never been as expensive in PSL history, and his team was on the ropes.

Zazai and Wells seemed to mirror each other for most of the stand, which was finally broken after 126 hard-fought runs when Zazai chopped on to Mohammad Wasim. The asking rate was almost run-a-ball by then, and a Shoaib Malik blitz – 32 off 10 balls – made light work of the last rites.

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