Islamabad  - Luke Ronchi didn't particularly need to do too much on Sunday to be in contention for player of the tournament, but he almost sealed that award with a blistering innings - by far the most devastating one in the tournament's short history. Ninety-four were smashed off 39 balls, 78 off which came through boundaries as Islamabad romped to their second final. The margin of victory in terms of balls remaining (45) was the biggest in the tournament.

Karachi looked to bowl at Ronchi's body without a square leg in place, and he dispatched three boundaries off the first over by Mohammad Amir to set the wheels in motion. The Powerplay was just an inexorable tidal wave of fours and sixes, with no bowler allowed a spell of more than one over, such command did Ronchi have over every one of them. Sixty-nine were carted off the first five overs as he raced to the fastest-ever PSL 50 - off just 19 balls, and the contest was over embarrassingly quickly. Sahibzada Farhan, and later Alex Hales and Samit Patel provided able support, but the day was all about Ronchi, who sealed his side's place in next Sunday's final with aplomb.

Karachi may rue a strangely conservative batting performance. They didn't look to attack till the 14-over mark. That was especially troubling given Eoin Morgan, who elected to bat, assessed the pitch as "excellent to bat on." Even though Colin Ingram injected urgency with a strokeful half-century, they were well behind the par score. Seventy-three came off the last six, thanks largely to Ingram's 29-ball 68. Yet, it never felt enough.

From the start, Karachi's strategy - if indeed that's what it was - looked odd. Joe Denly and Khurram Manzoor spent the first over blocking and nudging Samit Patel. Okay, that was Patel, and he has been dangerous early on. Yes, they lost two early wickets, but even that couldn't explain the decision to persist with that strategy up until the 14th over. This meant they were at least 30 runs behind par, with virtually no chance of making all that up at the death. Ronchi's innings wasn't a flash in the pan either; he's been at his belligerent best all tournament, so they would have been aware of the need for a big total. Whether they got their tactics wrong is a valid question to ask of Karachi.

Ronchi enjoys width, so Amir tried to cramp him for room. He responded by smashing three boundaries to ruin that plan one over into the innings. He likes pace on the ball, so Shahid Afridi was summoned for the third over despite not having bowled in the Powerplay before in the tournament. He went for 14 off five balls. All this amounted to him eclipsing Umar Akmal's previous record to bring up the tournament's fastest half-century off 19 balls. Ronchi now holds the four fastest PSL half-centuries this year.

Once he reached fifty, he did give Karachi chances; he was dropped off consecutive balls on 56 and 57, and later by Afridi when on 74, but by then he had guided the team total past 100. It took Islamabad just 8.3 overs to get there, the quickest in PSL history.

Islamabad's comprehensive victory takes them through to Sunday's final. For Karachi to get to their home ground for the grand finale, they will have to beat the winner of Peshawar and Quetta in the eliminator.

CALM MIND IS THE SECRET BEHIND RONCHI’S SUCCESS: Ronchi explained his philosophy and approach towards batting saying, “It feels amazing to go out and do that (break a record) in an innings. It was not a plan to go out and bat that way but by chance, they bowled some balls where you feel comfortable and sort of wanted them to bowl there. This got my momentum going and it reached a point where I felt that I can hit any ball for a four or a six.”

Ronchi’s frankness, unlike most international cricketers, was refreshing. “They bowled some good slow balls and I mistimed some shots. They certainly tried a few different things but I felt pretty comfortable with the way things were going and was confident of what I was doing and I was able to have a lot of fun.”

The splendid timing and even power behind shots surprised everyone. When asked, Ronchi said: “The game starts at 8pm and it is a long day and I try and relax as much as possible and just chill out by not thinking about cricket too much. I believe that if you think too much about the game the whole day your brain will get tired before you can even get to the game. So I turn up with a clear mind and confident of what you are doing and happy in what you are doing and it worked out in the end.”

Ronchi hit three half-centuries so far. His first effort came off just 23 balls, his second fifty against Lahore Qalandars in just 22 balls and then went on to break the record on Sunday. “If you’re nice and relax, and don’t go very emotional about it then your natural abilities come out and you play to your potential,” said Ronchi, who then attributed his calmness to his skipper Misbah Ul Haq. “It flows from him (Misbah), that calmness in him.”

Ronchi then went on to reveal the mood in his team’s dressing room after the win. “Today was a pretty amazing day for us. It is a massive win to get straight into the final. The guys are pretty excited in the change room.”

Ronchi, who will travel to Karachi for the next leg of PSL, wants his team to lift the cup in the final. “It is going to be a massive crowd out there (in Karachi) and hope we don’t play against Karachi (Kings) so we may get support around. It is going to be exciting for the Pakistan Super League and with majority of our team players going there, it makes it more exciting as we have the same group for a long time now.”

Scoreboard

Khurram Manzoor c & b M Sami 6
J Denly hit wicket b Faheem Ashraf 51
Babar Azam c Duminy b M Sami 0
E Morgan c Duminy b Amad Butt 21
C Ingram not out 68
Shahid Afridi not out 4
EXTRAS: (lb 2, w 2) 4
TOTAL: (4 wkts, 20 overs) 154
FOW: 1-17, 2-17, 3-46, 4-128.
BOWLING: SR Patel 4-0-23-0, M Sami 4-0-20-2, Faheem Ashraf 4-0-53-1, Shadab Khan 4-0-24-0, Amad Butt 2-0-16-1, Hussain Talat 2-0-16-0.
L Ronchi not out 94
Sahibzada Farhan c Afridi b Mills 29
A Hales c Mills b Usman Khan 14
S Patel not out 14
EXTRAS: (lb 1, w 3) 4
TOTAL: (2 wkts, 12.3 overs) 155
Fall of wickets: 1-91, 2-130.
BOWLING: M Amir 3-0-30-0, Usman Khan 3.3-0-44-1, TS Mills 2-0-32-1, Shahid Afridi 3-0-30-0, M Irfan (4) 1-0-18-0.
TOSS: Karachi Kings
UMPIRES: Rashid Riaz, Aleem Dar
TV UMPIRES: Shozab Raza