Usman Khan and Muhammad Waseem miss out on winners’ medals after epic PSL final

UAE captain had to watch on from afar as his would-be Islamabad United teammates celebrated glory in Karachi

Usman Khan starred with the bat for Multan Sultans in the PSL final, top-scoring in the match with 57. AP
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Muhammad Waseem would have been forgiven for watching Monday night’s HBL Pakistan Super League final with a hint of envy.

At least one player had stolen his life for a day, if not two.

The UAE captain was picked up by Islamabad United as a replacement player in February, due reward for his brilliance as an opening batter in T20 cricket.

Yet, as they were celebrating a third PSL title on Monday night after a thrilling final against Multan Sultans, he was left to watch from afar.

Waseem was not able to take up his contract with Islamabad as the meat of the tournament clashed with the UAE’s international series against Canada and Scotland.

There was a small window of opportunity either side of national duty. However, so brief was it that Waseem did not feel he could justify making the trip.

At the beginning, he opted instead for a rapid flying visit to the Bangladesh Premier League, for one game only. Then at the end he did not fly in for the business end of the PSL, after the UAE’s drab T20 series loss to Scotland.

He might have been a welcome arrival. Two of Islamabad's three overseas openers were at odds at the time.

Englishman Alex Hales was suddenly runless as the season’s finish line approached. The single run he made in the second eliminator match against Peshawar Zalmi was his last chance in the competition.

For the final he was replaced by Martin Guptill, who had himself only made his tournament introduction in the first eliminator match in place of Colin Munro, who was struggling with a hamstring injury.

Guptill had three games to make himself a star and he took his chance. In the final, he got Islamabad’s pursuit of 160 to win off to a flying start with 50 from 32 balls. That might so easily have been Waseem instead.

Despite Waseem’s absence, the UAE were represented – to an extent – in the final.

Usman Khan decorated the ninth season of PSL in the brightest hues. At the end of it, he was named the batter of the tournament.

With 430 runs, he was actually the season's second-leading run getter, with a full 139 runs fewer than Babar Azam.

But Usman’s haul came in four less matches, and it was a stunning feat. The 430 he managed in seven games came at an average of 107.5 and a strike rate of 164.12. They are unbelievable numbers.

Nominally, he is from the UAE, although his remains a curious case. He was recruited by Multan as an overseas player, even though he can’t play for the UAE until midway through 2025, but could play for Pakistan tomorrow.

He has lived in the UAE long enough to be eligible to represent the national team. However, his qualification via the ICC’s residency criteria has been delayed due to the number of days he has spent out of the country playing PSL and BPL cricket.

Usman remains committed to playing for the UAE in the future, but his resolve might well be tested if Pakistan come calling.

Surely anybody would want him after the excellence he showed this season. His run of scores, which included a canny half-century in the final which gave himself something to defend, could not fail to get him noticed.

It is a wonder that he has reached this point of his career without being fully fancied. Andy Flower, the coach who first gave him his chance at Multan, suggested Usman’s greatest strengths are on game day.

“When we gave him a chance at Multan, it was a little bit of a gamble because in nets, you might not see a top-class player in there,” Flower said of Usman during the DP World International League T20 earlier this year.

“But when he plays in a game, I think he is a great game player and great competitor. He likes the competition and finding solutions to whatever problems the opposition are posing him. That is one of his biggest assets.”

So it proved in the final. Islamabad had hit on a plan for the rising star when he came to the wicket in Karachi. Their fast bowlers went short at him, and initially he looked uncomfortable.

He was hit on his right arm off the first ball he faced, from the rapid Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah. He ran the next ball he faced down to third man to get off the mark, but required treatment at the end of the over.

By the time of Multan’s fielding effort, he had been forced out of the game, left to watch from the dug out with his forearm heavily bandaged.

Still, though – as Flower suggested – Usman found solutions. He cut a four off Imad Wasim in his second over, then later a six and four – albeit via a dropped catch by Hunain Shah – signalled that he was into his work.

By the time he made it to 50, his name was being roared around the National Bank Stadium.

Seven runs later, he fell, caught by Islamabad’s substitute fielder Jordan Cox, who is coincidentally Usman’s teammate at Gulf Giants in the ILT20.

Injury dictated that was to be Usman’s last involvement in the final. Instead, he was left as a nervous spectator unable to influence proceedings.

The man who might soon be his international captain knew the feeling only too well.

Updated: March 19, 2024, 7:10 AM