Given Islamabad United’s history for slow starts in the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL), coach Dean Jones might be fearing they have peaked too early, after getting their first points on the board in their second match of PSL 3.
Back when the Pakistan Cricket Board rolled out its big Twenty20 project in 2016, the franchise representing the capital were nowhere over the first half of the competition. Then they won the last five successive matches to become the inaugural winners, proving it is not about how you start, it is about how you finish.
Jones trotted out just that line after they were humbled on their debut in PSL 3 on Saturday, when they suffered an "embarrassing" loss to Peshawar Zalmi, in the coach's words.
He demanded they step up. Within 24 hours, they had done just that, outplaying a Multan Sultans side that had come into the match with a blemish-free 2-0 record in PSL cricket since becoming the newest franchise at the start of this season.
The five-wicket win, set up by fine bowling from Rumman Raees, Steven Finn, Mohammed Sami and Andre Russell, and finished off by Hussain Talat with the bat, showed Islamabad mean business already.
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“It is all about confidence,” said Talat, the 22-year-old left-hander who made an unbeaten 48 from 34 balls to take his side to the win. “I have been with the team from the first season, and the manner in which the coaching staff and the team management create confidence is remarkable.
"That also helps players gain confidence and perform under pressure.”
Islamabad do a good line in disarray. Last year, they were deprived the services of Russell, their key all-rounder, because of a doping ban, and were then mired by a corruption controversy.
There has been no such drama this time around, but they are at least without Misbah-ul-Haq, their totemic captain, on account of a tickly hamstring injury. Jones has given his assurance Misbah’s injury is no major concern, saying he would be playing if it was the business end of the competition.
Raees, the left-arm fast bowler who is filling in as captain in Misbah’s absence, will have been grateful for the chance to right the wrongs of his first day on duty on Saturday. He led the way against Multan, taking 3-14 in the 3.5 overs he sent down.
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Although Islamabad’s collective effort on a cloudy day which provided rare assistance for swing bowlers kept Multan to 113 all out, the chase was not a given.
The reason being Imran Tahir was in opposition. Back in 2013, Tahir took five wickets against Pakistan, the country of his birth, in a Test match for South Africa, then said he felt “more South African than Pakistani”.
Now the Lahore-born slow bowler is back as one of the star overseas players in Pakistan’s showpiece competition.
He lived up to his billing with a spellbinding return of 3-19 from four overs, which included a maiden, albeit in a losing cause for Multan.
“Every game is very important for me,” said Tahir, who represented Pakistan at Under 19 and A-team level, before settling in South Africa. “I have worked very hard for where I am. I believe that if I respect the game, I will get respect. I don’t take it for granted.
“It is an honour for me to play in the PSL, and I am proud of it. I am really enjoying it, thanks to the organisers for the tournament, and the standard is very good.”