Islamabad United opened their title defence with a hard-fought seven-wicket win over Peshawar Zalmi as the Pakistan Super League 2017 kicked off with an impressive ceremony.
Set a revised target of 173 in 18 overs after rain intervened, Islamabad were put on course by Dwayne Smith, who made 55 off 49 balls with eight boundaries and a six, and Brad Haddin whose 39-ball 73 had eight fours and three sixes that entertained a packed Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Islamabad, originally set 191 after Peshawar had amassed 190 for 9 in 20 overs, had looked to Sharjeel Khan to give them a robust start but the left-hander was trapped leg-before for just 1 to Hasan Ali in the second over of the innings.
Smith began in uncharacteristically slow fashion until Haddin took charge, as the duo added 104 at good pace in just 70 balls to set the title-holders on course for the win. Even after Haddin was dismissed with 55 needed off 30 balls, the win was never in doubt.
Shane Watson, who made an unbeaten 26 off 13 balls, hit two sixes and as many fours to bring the target to seven needed in the final over. Sam Billings then smashed a boundary off the fourth ball to seal victory.
Earlier, Kamran Akmal smashed six sixes and as many fours in his 48-ball 88, once again reminding people of his credentials. Kamran lifted the innings after Mohammad Hafeez, the opener, fell to the first delivery of the innings, caught in the slips off the lanky Mohammad Imran.
Together with Dawid Malan (43 off 30 balls), Kamran not only brought stability but hit some excellent shots, smashing three sixes off Saeed Ajmal. He brought up his fifty off just 23 balls with three sixes and four boundaries.
That innings came on the back of a prolific domestic season during which he had scored 1035 runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, and 361 runs in the departmental one-day cup.
But Peshawar erred in sending Haris Sohail, fit-again but lacking in match practice, at NO.5 in the 13th over. Sohail was on a comeback trail after a 17-month lay-off due to a knee operation. His 14-ball 12 broke Zalmi’s tempo as they managed only 51 in the overs 11-16, including the dismissal of Kamran in the 16th over.
Watson finished with 4 for 46 in his four overs, while Mohammad Sami finished with an economical 2 for 16 in his four.
Lahore Qalandars face Quetta Gladiators in the first match of a double-header on Friday, while in the second match, Karachi Kings will meet Peshawar.