Islamabad United
Islamabad United are the defending champions (Credit: PSL)

Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf starred for defending champions Islamabad United as they beat Lahore Qalandars by five wickets in the opening match of Pakistan Super League 2019 on Thursday in Dubai.

A brisk fifty from opener Fakhar Zaman laid the platform for Qalandars’ challenging total of 171/8 after being sent in to bat at Dubai International Cricket Stadium. In reply, United overhauled the target, finishing on 177/5 with four deliveries to spare but not before having to make a late comeback after losing three wickets in the final Powerplay over.

Openers Luke Ronchi (27) and Rizwan Hussain (15) gave a solid start to the chase of 172 but Rahat Ali (4/29) left a major dent with an excellent fifth over, reducing them to 49/3 from 45/0.

He accounted for the scalps of Hussain, Ronchi and Philip Salt (4) leaving United struggling. Hussain Talat (37) and Cameron Delport (24) rebuild the inning with a 55-run partnership for the fourth wicket. However, Rahat returned to break them apart with the scalp of Delport in the 14th over.

And when Rahat accepted the catch of Talat off Carlos Brathwaite, United needed 54 off 32. Asif and Ashraf joined hands in a quickfire, unbeaten stand to take their team over the line. Asif struck an unbeaten 36 off 19 with two fours and three sixes while Ashraf smacked a 11-ball 23* with two fours and as many sixes.
With the scores levelled after 19.1 overs, Ashraf struck a six to seal the game.

However, United could have been left to chase a lot more had it not been for some excellent death-overs display from their bowlers that saw Qalandars managing just 41 from their last six overs apart from losing six wickets as well.

Qalandars made a rollicking start with the opening pair adding 97 runs before Ashraf struck with the wicket of Sohail Akhtar (37) in the 11th over. Zaman though scored 65 off 43 with six fours and three sixes before his dismissal off Shadab Khan triggered a collapse. Waqas Mahmood took 1/25 but he removed the dangerman AB de Villiers (24) in the death overs to keep their opponents under control.

Apart from his match-winning cameo, Ashraf also returned figures of 2/24.

Brief Scores: Islamabad United 177/5 (Hussain Talat 37, Asif Ali 36*; Rahat Ali 4/29) beat Lahore Qalandars 171/8 (Fakhar Zaman 65; Faheem Ashraf 2/24)