DUBAI: An attacking century by opener Sharjeel Khan (117) arm spinner (4 for 28) made all the difference as Islamabad clinched the crucial third qualifying final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium here Sunday night.
By virtue of their 50 runs victory Islamabad, led by Misbahul Haq, forced their way into the main final of this mega event where they will now be pitted against Quetta Gladiators on February 23 at the same venue.
Set to chase a daunting target of 177, Zalmi were never in the run after losing their early wickets as Kamran Akmal emerged as the only Zalmi batsman to make any impression with brisk 45 which came with the help of two sixes and five fours.
Skipper Shajid Afridi did try to salvage some prestige for the losers but all he could do was to contribute 38 with four sixes and two fours.Left-arm spinner Imran Khalid bowled intelligently to return with fine figures of 4 for 28 followed by Andre Russel who also played his role well for three scalps for which he conceded 33 runs.
Earlier, Peshawar Zalmi skipper Shahid Afridi beat Islamabad captain Misbahul Haq in the spin of the coin and elected to field.On a track which looked having little for the bowlers the United openers Sharjeel Khan, who later won the man of the match award for his superb century and Dwayne Smith batted at will to thrash rival bowlers putting on invaluable 108 runs for the first-wicket partnership with Sharjeel having the major share of 82 runs. Smith left having contributed 19 off 37 balls.
Later on, Sharjeel continued with his onslaught thrashing almost all the bowlers before finally being run out after contributing a sparkling 117 off just 62 balls which included 8 sixes and 12 fours. In the process, Sharjeel became the first batsman to hit a century in the PSL which came off 50 balls.
Khalid Latif contributed 28 off 21 balls with three boundaries. Brad Haddin went without scoring as Islamabad innings terminated at 176 off stipulated 20 overs losing three wickets. This meant Zalmi required 177 to make it to the final.
Every Zalmi bowler received good thrashing from the United batsmen and Sharjeel in particular. However, pacer Shaun Tait emerged as the only successful bowler having two wickets to his credit for which he conceded 35 runs.