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Usman's fastest PSL ton, Afridi five-for eliminate Gladiators in runfest

Yousuf, Iftikhar fifties not enough as Gladiators fall short by nine runs in chase of 263


Multan Sultans 262 for 3 (Usman 120, Rizwan 55, Qais 2-77) beat Quetta Gladiators 253 for 8 (Yousuf 67, Iftikhar 53, Afridi 5-47) by 9 runs


The Rawalpindi leg of the PSL this season has stood out for the surfeit of fours and sixes that have pervaded it, but even by those gluttonous standards, Usman Khan stood out. The former Quetta Gladiators man tormented his previous employers, smashing the fastest PSL hundred as Sultans piled on 262, the highest PSL score in history.


Gladiators, needing a win - and in truth, a comprehensive one to stay alive - battled gamely, half-centuries from Omair Yousuf and Iftikhar Ahmed keeping the scoreline respectable. But despite the placidity of the surface, there were simply too many runs to get. Abbas Afridi showed the bowlers could have their say too with a five-fer that included a hat-trick, and though Gladiators took it much deeper than it appeared they might, they fell short by nine runs.


Gladiators required a run-rate boosting victory to retain realistic hopes of pipping Peshawar Zalmi to a playoff spot, but the manner in which Multan started put any such notions to bed. It wasn't until the third over that Usman struck his first boundary, but the four he plundered off that Aimal Khan over was very much a harbinger of what would follow. By the sixth over, Multan were purring, and the hapless Qais Ahmed was clobbered for 27 as Sultans posted 91, the highest powerplay score of the season.


The carnage continued with 21 of the next over, and a further 27 off Qais' second. During that over, Usman had brought up his 36-ball hundred, the fastest this league has ever seen. The following over saw the 150 come up, with the innings still in its first half. Nawaz brought himself once more and, to Gladiators' relief, deceived him with the flight as Umar Akmal effected a smart stumping, though, having bludgeoned a 43-ball 120, the damage had very much been done.


Mohammad Rizwan wasn't exactly plodding along, but he'd been happy to turn the strike over, facing just 17 of the first 61 balls. He brought up his own half-century off 26 balls, but the carnage often happened at the other end. Tim David was in imperious form and combined with Kieron Pollard to finish strongly after the Gladiators had staged a mini-revival in the middle overs. The fourth wicket partnership between the duo combined for an unbeaten 58 off 33, and while that almost felt snail-paced after Usman's fireworks, it still powered Sultans to the highest PSL total by 15 runs.


Gladiators needed a huge effort from the top three if they were to stage a repeat of the monster chase they achieved against Peshawar Zalmi earlier in the week. But the architect of that triumph, Jason Roy, was dispatched with a slower ball in the second over. Martin Guptill took charge with a blistering powerplay cameo, smoking 37 off 13 balls before a bit of extra pace from Ihsanullah took the outside edge.


But cameos weren't enough in a chase of this magnitude, and to make up for the lack of one huge innings, Gladiators strung together several small, consequential ones. Seven of the ten who batted registered double figures, none of them at a strike rate lower than 170. Yousuf and Iftikhar appeared to be making a game of it with a 57-ball 104-run stand through the middle overs, with both batters scoring half-centuries. Iftikhar, somewhat bizarrely, gestured to shush the Rawalpindi crowd after getting to the mark in 28 balls, even as his side was well on course to be silenced before the playoffs for the fourth successive season.


It was Afridi who dismissed him with a slower ball to ease any Multan nerves, but to Gladiators' credit, they kept hammering away. Mohammad Nawaz struck a four off his first ball, while Akmal and Umaid smashed sixes of theirs, and though the wickets kept tumbling, the runs were steadily being knocked off. When Akmal smashed two sixes in the 17th to leave Gladiators needing 56 off 22, they might even have been narrow favourites, but Afridi would have the final say.

Three wickets off successive balls straddling two overs were the icing on the cake, as Afridi achieved just the fifth PSL hat-trick, and though Gladiators raged against the dying of the light, the light truly was going out for them. The scoreline might say they fell short by just nine runs, but this elimination is the fourth first-round exit in a row for the 2019 champions. The narrow margin of defeat cannot detract from the gulf between them in a league where most of their competitors have pulled far out of sight.

Courtesy By: CricInfo.com

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