RAWALPINDI: Islamabad United sealed a sensational final over-win against Quetta Gladiators to confirm their spot in the playoffs of the Pakistan Super League season 8.
Set to chase 180, United went through many ups and downs before getting past the target with only two wickets to spare, thanks to a blistering 63 by Colin Munro and sensible knocks by Azam Khan and Faheem Ashraf.
For the Gladiators, it was another unfortunate night as they suffered their fifth consecutive defeat in the tournament.
United are second on the table with 10 points after seven games.
Opting to bowl first, the home side at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium got off to a solid start as they sank Gladiators to 17/4 inside the powerplay.
Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nawaz, however, led the fightback with an astounding 104-run partnership before Umar Akmal made a quickfire 43 from just 14 balls to take Gladiators to 179/6 in the 20 overs despite early setbacks.
In reply, United also underwent an unwanted start when pacer Naseem
Shah dismissed opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz on a duck on the very second ball of the innings.
Munro and England opener Alex Hales then took the scoreboard to 52 before Naveen-ul-Haq handed United their second blow, removing the latter on 12, in the fifth over.
Despite early strikes, Munro remained undeterred and hit five fours and four maximums during his 29-ball 63.
Gladiators clawed back into the contest when skipper Shadab Khan fell prey to Iftikhar Ahmed in the seventh over with a catch taken at deep square. Munro joined Shadab in the hut on the very next ball off Nawaz’s first delivery.
Emerging Musbashir Khan and Asif Ali were also dismissed cheaply by Umaid Asif and Nawaz in the ninth and 12th overs respectively as United slid to 111/6.
Dangerman Azam and Faheem, however, clubbed 58 for the seventh wicket and tighten their side’s grip on the chase before Umaid Asif struck two wickets in the 19th over. He dismissed Azam before taking down Hasan Ali to leave United requiring nine runs from the last over.
Faheem smashed three consecutive boundaries off Odean Smith’s final over to take his side home with three balls to spare. He went not out on 39 off 31 balls.
Earlier, United pacers ran through the Gladiators’ top order before Nawaz and Zadran salvaged the side with valiant half-centuries.
Zadran made 59 from 34 balls including five fours and three maximums while Nawaz scored 52 off 44 laced with six scintillating boundaries. The stellar partnership between the two sailed their side to 121/4 in 16 overs before Fazalhaq Farooqi found the breakthrough.
Farooqi removed Nawaz in the 17th over and had an impressive outing with the ball overall as he dismissed the two openers, Will Smeed (0) and Yasir Khan (5), in his first spell.
Akmal, however, justified his return to the playing XI as he smashed five maximums and two four during his brief stay at the crease and minted out 21 runs in the final over to finish the proceedings in style for Gladiators.
For United, it was a mixed performance from the bowlers with spinners conceding runs at an economy above 10 and remaining wicketless while fast bowlers except Hassan Ali claimed scalps.
Faheem Ashraf bagged two wickets in the middle dismissing Sarfaraz Ahmed for 3 and Iftikhar Ahmed for 2, while Ruman Raees cleaned up Zadran in the penultimate over to register a wicket to his credit.