By Muhammad Jazib Munir
After a tremendous innings played by Luke Ronchi scoring a whooping 50 runs on just 25 balls, Islamabad United reclaimed the title of Champions of Pakistan Super League 2018(PSL).
While chasing the mark of 149 runs set by Peshawar Zalmi, United started very well but got a bit rattled when quick wickets were lost in the middle overs. United got luck at their side especially when the Zalmi wicket keeper Kamran Akmal dropped a simple catch of Asif Ali who smashed three consecutive sixes to Hassan Ali. After that chance was lost, so did the chances of Zalmi to claim the trophy.
In PSL '18, Islamabad United's journey started with a defeat by Zalmi where, during a chase of 177, United did not get a chance to step over win and lost 9 wickets on just 142 in 20 overs and for the United fans that was a very shocking start by the former champions. But Islamabad's team got reunited in the next match against Multan Sultans where Rumman Raees showed his talent by taking three important wickets which ceased Sultans to just 113 runs and United won the match by chasing the target in the 18th over. In the next match, Ronchi started his natural play but no other player stood on crease to support him and United got halted on 134 runs against Quetta Gladiator and lost this one too.
After that second defeat, United took charge and won six consecutive matches against all the opponent teams which included very interesting matches in which match against Lahore Qalandars was on top. Though United won in super over after a breath-taking fight. Every player of Islamabad United was giving his 100% in which Luke Ronchi was on top in batsmen and Faheem Ashraf in bowlers. Citing their performance in the whole tournament, PCB conferred upon them the best batsman and best bowler awards. These consecutive wins not just pushed United on the top of table but also made them first qualifier for semi-final.
In the final match of playoffs stage, United got defeated by Karachi which made Karachi the next qualifier for semi-final and Karachi and Islamabad once again played against each other in semi finals to qualify for the final. In qualifier, United bowlers halted the Kings on 154 by taking four major wickets but Collin Ingram remained unbeatable by United. But from the United side, Ronchi again took the charge in batting and played an innings of 94 runs by smashing 12 fours and five sixes and put the efforts of Ingram in vain for Kings. This tremendous innings of Ronchi pushed United further to finals.
With the magic of Shadab Khan's bowling and Ronchi's colorful inning, Peshawar didn't stand a chance to defend their title of champions and transferred the title back to former champions Islamabad United who deserved this after that marvellous and improved team effort. The emotions were so high, and the team spirit was so strong that it did not give any chance to fans to feel the absence of skipper MIsbah-ul-Haq and bowler Ruman Raees in finals who got injured few days before the finals.
Published in Young Nation Magazine on April 7, 2017