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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Luke Ronchi stars as Islamabad United beat Peshawar Zalmi to clinch PSL 2018 title

New Zealander's blistering half century sets up his side for victory in Karachi

Luke Ronchi, second left, in action in the field during the PSL final. He would go on to hit a stunning half century to guide Islamabad United to victory. Asif Hassan / AFP
Luke Ronchi, second left, in action in the field during the PSL final. He would go on to hit a stunning half century to guide Islamabad United to victory. Asif Hassan / AFP

The dominant force of the HBL Pakistan Super League 3 drove its pre-eminent team to a crushing win in the final, as Karachi was treated to a Luke Ronchi special on Sunday night.

Over the past month, Sharjah and Dubai had grown used to the savagery of the former New Zealand batsman’s batting.

The change of scenery as the tournament decamped to Pakistan, as well as a one week break from playing, did little to upset his flow, as he powered Islamabad United’s three-wicket win over Peshawar Zalmi.

Last time out, he had blazed Islamabad’s trail to Karachi with 94 from 39 balls. At 25 balls, his effort in the final was only his fourth fastest half-century of the tournament. And he went as soon as he reached the milestone, too.

He had done enough to set the platform for the win, though. Islamabad did stutter, losing three wickets for six runs immediately after Ronchi went, and six for 20 in a middle-overs wobble.

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But they recovered, not least because of a reprieve for Asif Ali off the bowling of Umaid Asif that actually cost Peshawar six runs in all.

The batsman top edged a bouncer off Umaid. Kamran Akmal missed the skier, retreating backwards from his position as wicket-keeper.

Sameen Gul, the fine-leg fielder, retrieved the grounded ball, and proceeded to throw it for four overthrows in attempting a run out from the boundary.

Ali made Peshawar pay for their mistake, smashing three successive sixes to edge them towards the win.

Peshawar had been indebted to the resistance from Wahab Riaz to reaching a total that was even remotely competitive on a docile Karachi pitch.

Batting at No 10, Wahab hit a breezy 28 not out from 14 balls to hoist the defending champions to 148 for nine from their 20 overs.

Zalmi’s top order had faltered against the spin of Shadab Khan, who took three wickets, and Samit Patel, whose two wickets were the latest haul in a fruitful tournament for him.

This was a duel between the only two sides to have won a PSL before, and Islamabad eventually doubled their trophy haul in entirely different fashion to when they won the opening event in 2016.

Back then, they were reliant on a late run of wins to make it to the final, after a faltering start. This time around, though, they were clear leaders in the league phase. They lost just three of their 10 matches in the regular season – the last of those when they fielded an experimental side with top spot already assured.

And they secured passage through to the final with the fastest, most comprehensive win in PSL’s three-year history to date, in the qualifier playoff against Karachi Kings at Dubai International Stadium.

As such, despite the courageous rally by Peshawar, it is difficult to argue against Islamabad being deserving champions.