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Islamabad seal play-off spot with big win

It was a battle for the top spot in the points table of the Pakistan Super League, and Islamabad United rose to the occasion in fine fashion to script a comprehensive 33-run win, this sealing themselves a spot in the play-offs after having bowled out Multan Sultans for 152 on Tuesday (March 13). Sultans were chasing 186, but fell short owing to a poor start at the top that had them reduced to 20 for 4 at one stage. Kieron Pollard’s 47-ball 73, however, gave them a respectable finish with no other batsman crossing the 13-run mark.

Once again, it was Ronchi at the top who provided the start and the foundation for his side to tee off towards the end and get to an imposing total. The New Zealand wicketkeeper-bat attacked from the onset and dispatched Shoaib Malik to the boundary off the first ball of the innings. He put on display an array of shots that have been typical to him so far in this competition as he raced away to his third half-century in four games.

It was, however, an Imran Tahir googly that did him in as the stumps were rattled for a 36-ball 58. That, after JP Duminy was run-out in the fifth over for 6, while partaking in a 46-run stand with Ronchi. Duminy’s departure brought Alex Hales to the middle, who was playing his first match of this edition of the tournament. He teed off with ease as he kept the scoreboard ticking, adding 55 runs with Rochi before the latter fell. Umar Gul dented United with the wicket of Hales four runs short of his half-century.

However, a cameo from Hussain Talat, who scored a handy 36 off 21 balls, Asif Ali (17*) and Faheem Ashraf (13*) took Islamabad to an above-par score.

Multan Sultans, after opting to chase, got off to the worst possible start with their top four back in the shed within six overs. A steep target to get meant they needed some partnerships up front if they were to stand a chance of successfully chasing down 185. Kumar Sangakkara went for the slog a tad too early, only to give Hales an easy catch on the deep midwicket, and Samit Patel his first wicket in the opening over of the innings. Patel went on to trap Saif Badar leg before with a slider off the next ball to dent the Sultans back.

The pressure was mounting on the Sultans given the constantly increasing required run-rate and the fact that runs were coming in rather scantily. Faheem Ashraf’s maiden wicket followed by Sohaib Maqsood’s wicket in the next over meant Sultans were reduced to 20 for 4 in the sixth over. Of the 20 scored until that point, Maqsood had 13 of them against his name.

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