PSL 2021: Usman Khawaja century sets up record-breaking win for Islamabad United

Peshawar Zalmi make 232-6 in the chase but still lose by 15 runs

Usman Khawaja sent a message to Australia’s selectors with a blistering century on a record-breaking night in the HBL Pakistan Super League in Abu Dhabi.

Captaining Islamabad United in the absence of Shadab Khan, the left-hander hit an unbeaten 105 in just 56 balls against Peshawar Zalmi at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

It underpinned a score of 247-2. That broke Islamabad’s own record for the highest score in the history of the PSL, and was the largest total ever by any Pakistani side in the 20-over format.

Although their own bowlers subsequently felt the brunt of some bruising batting, too, Islamabad did enough to hold out for a 15-run win.

When Khawaja arrived in the UAE capital as a replacement player this month, he suggested he hoped to catch the eye of the Australian management by way of this event.

The 34-year-old opener has been out of his national team for two years. Furthermore, he has only ever played nine T20 internationals for Australia, and the most recent of those was five years ago.

And yet, if – as seems likely – the T20 World Cup is to be played on these shores later this year, Khawaja might well represent an inspired selection.

Few players thrive quite so much in UAE conditions as the Islamabad-born player.

Back in 2018, Khawaja played one of finest innings Dubai International Stadium has yet witnessed, in saving a Test match for Australia against Pakistan.

And now this remarkable effort in the PSL down the E11 in Abu Dhabi.

He received strong support from the rest of the Islamabad top order. First, he shared in an alliance worth 98 with Colin Munro, who made 48 in 28 balls.

Then the in form Asif Ali came in and blazed 43 in a mere 14 balls, while Brandon King made 46 in 22 deliveries.

Peshawar made a rousing effort at the chase, despite losing Hazratullah Zazai, the Afghan opener who had hit a 17-ball half-century last time out, to the first ball of their reply.

Kamran Akmal hit 53 in 32 balls. Shoaib Malik laced a 36-ball 68, and Sherfane Rutherford hit four sixes in a row in an eight-ball cameo worth 29.

Despite their pluckiness, Peshawar fell 15 runs short. The defeat means, having played all their regular season matches, they are in second place on 10 points.

Islamabad are riding high at the top of the table and, with a game to play, are already assured of progressing to the knockout stage – in all likelihood in first place.