KARACHI: Luke Ronchi and Asif Ali pumped quick runs into the scorecard to guide Islamabad United to telling victory against Peshawar Zalmi in the high-voltage grand finale of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season 3 in Karachi on Sunday.
In pursuit for 149 runs target, Ronchi’s blistering fifty set the momentum, but immediately after his wicket was thrown a domino-effect of falling of wickets was witnessed on one side, as only Sahibzada Farhan had his wicket intact for quite a longer run, until Kamran Akmal’s costly miss off Asif Ali’s strike on 14.4 overs.
From here unbeaten Asif (26 from 6) launched a crazy onslaught to make it one-sided match with three back-to-back maximums off Hasan Ali. United successfully chased the score with 3.1 overs to spare.
“Hard hitting is my natural game. The coaching staff encouraged me to play that way. Pressure was of course there, but I have won a number of matches for Faisalabad playing this way. Playing under pressure gives me a lot of enjoyment. My friends say that you are made for big games,” said Asif Ali.
Talking to Ramiz Raja, Peshawar Zalmi skipper Darren Sammy said: “I am looking forward to playing more cricket in Pakistan.
The tournament’s top run-getter, Ronchi bagged Man of the Match Award as well as PSL 2018’s Player of the Tournament Award.
Ronchi started off the proceedings with two towering sixes in the first over of the inning bowled by Hasan Ali followed by 15 runs milked in the fourth over of the inning bowled by Liam Dawson.
He raised his half-century on just 25 deliveries and got out after scoring 52 runs off 26 balls that included 5 sixes and four boundaries. He emerged as the highest run-scorer with 435 runs. The former Kiwi batsman contributed 96 runs with Sahibzada Farhan in just 53 balls.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was the chief guest on the occasion, was present in the stadium and enjoyed the revival of international cricket in Karachi after nine years.
Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Director General Inter Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor were also among the prominent dignitaries witnessing the match.
Earlier in the evening, a star-studded entertaining concluding ceremony of the PSL 3 was held here at National Stadium Karachi.
Scores of showbiz and cricket celebrities and other dignitaries attended the mega event. Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United teams were also witnessing the colorful occasion from the dressing room.
Aima Baig sang ‘Sakon Yar Manawna Hey’. Farhan Saeed’s rendition also made people shake a leg. Strings band and Shehzad Roy’s performances extremely amused the spectators. Andre Fletcher, Darren Sammy, Kamran Akmal and Hassan Ali grooved on Strings’ ‘Hai Koi Hum Jaisa’.
Ali Zafar sang PSL 3 title song “Seeti Bajay Gi”.
United skipper JP Duminy climbed the stage and won the hearts of the crowd with “Assalam-o-Alaikum” in majestic voice. He was all praise for the return of the cricket to Pakistan and crowd in Karachi.
Zalmi captain Sammy asked Karachiites “kesay ho” (how are you). He thanked all the participants for their love.
“Hopefully, the residents of Karachi will get to see some good cricket today.”
He also chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.
Tight security arrangements were in place as a huge crowd of spectators thronged the stadium to experience the first major cricketing event in Karachi in the last nine years.
The terrorists who put Pakistan cricket in a deadlock have been defeated as hundreds of fans, fighting the heat and near-suffocating security blanket had reached the stadium.
It was like a big festival for the nearly 20-million people of the metropolis. The city was buzzing with hoardings welcoming the international as well as local players.
Addressing the ceremony, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi gave credit to law enforcement agencies including Rangers, police and Army for providing impressive security for the event.
He said Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah contributed with his immense services for the event to make it possible.
“Every organ of the state has worked day and night to bring the game back. There was a scare earlier, but we’re over it now. Next year, we’re hoping half of the PSL matches will be played in Pakistan,” he said.
Sethi asked people to throng to stadiums in other upcoming international events in the megapolis as well.