Babar Azam has reached a stage where records have become his bosom friend. Much like India’s Virat Kohli, whenever the Pakistan captain scores heavily in any format, more often than not, he ends up achieving some sort of a record. The Peshawar Zalmi vs Islamabad United PSL Eliminator 1 was no different. Babar Azam led the way with a blistering 39-ball 64 while opening the batting as Peshawar eliminated two-time champions Islamabad with a 12-run victory in Lahore on Thursday.
Babar scored at a strike rate of 164 and hit 10 boundaries in his fluent knock. This was Babar’s fifth half-century in this PSL. The knock made the talismanic right-hander the fastest cricketer to reach 9000 runs in T20s. He broke Chris Gayle’s record. Babar took 245 innings compared to Gayle’s 249. The second on the list is Virat Kohli, who completed 9000 T20 runs in 271 innings followed by Australia’s David Warner (in 273 innings) and Aaron Finch (in 281 innings).
Babar has been in stellar form in the shortest format of the game in the last few years. He has scored nine T20 centuries since 2019 – the most by any cricketer in the world. The second best is England limited-overs captain Jos Buttler with six T20 tons.
His innings on Thursday in the knockout match laid the platform for Peshawar to post 183 for 8 while batting first. Babar put on 60 runs for the first wicket with opening partner Saim Ayub before the latter fell for 23 off 16 balls. Mohammad Harris’ wonderful cameo of 34 off just 17 balls gave the much-needed push in the middle overs.
After Babar was trapped by Shadab in the 13th over, Peshawar went 46-5 in the last seven overs.
Afghanistan fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi, Faheem, and Mohammad Wasim bowled brilliantly in the last five overs to concede only four boundaries to Peshawar. But Peshawar would have an even better death-bowling response.
In the chase, Islamabad was crushing the chase at 128-1 after 14 overs on the back of a century stand between Sohaib Maqsood (60) and Alex Hales (57) when Peshawar’s unheralded pacers, Salman Irshad (2-18) and Aamer Jamal (2-36), turned the game on its head. They restricted Islamabad to 171-6.
Sohaib and Hales combined for 115 runs until Aamer ignited the collapse when he clean bowled Sohaib off a fuller delivery and Salman knocked back the stumps of Azam Khan.
Aamer bowled Hales off a yorker and brilliantly fielded off his follow-through to run out Faheem Ashraf at the non-striker’s end.
Needing 24 off Aamer’s last over, Islamabad captain Shadab Khan could hit just one six and fell out of the race for a third title.
Peshawar will take on defending champions the Lahore Qalandars in the second elimination game on Friday. The winner goes to the rescheduled final against Multan Sultans on Saturday.
The final was brought forward by a day because of the rain forecast on Sunday.