Asif Ali's late six-laden cameo in a difficult run-chase helped Islamabad United defeat Lahore Qalandars by five wickets in the opening match of the 2019 Pakistan Super League at the Dubai International Stadium.
After Islamabad United won the toss and opted to field first, Fakhar Zaman and Sohail Akhtar opened the innings for Lahore Qalandars.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Sami and Samit Patel shared the new ball for the defending champions, with the former's opening ball of the opening over of the opening match dispatched for a four by Zaman.
After sizing up his prey in the first few overs, Zaman went after Patel in the fourth over, first smacking the first six of PSL 2019 before following it up with a boundary the very next ball.
In the same over Akhtar showed his strike partner that he too can hit it long as one sailed over the long on boundary. Patel's over went from bad to worse when he dropped Akhtar the very next ball.
The Qalandars lost their first wicket in the 11th over Akhtar (37 off 30) departed, following which AB de Villiers arrived at the crease.
Zaman's blistering 44-ball 65-run knock came to an end in the 14th over.
De Villiers hit a six and a couple fours but couldn't last the entire innings. His 24-run innings ended in the 16th over.
A flurry of wickets had clearly affected the Qalandars' momentum in the second half of their innings but they still managed to post 171 runs on the board for the loss of 8 wickets.
Islamabad's 2018 hero Luke Ronchi gave a solid start to their run chase as the capital city side were 45-0 after 5 overs. However, Rahat Ali's sixth over changed the outlook of the game completely. The southpaw pacer removed three United batman in a span of six deliveries to put Lahore in the driving seat.
Cameron Delport and Hussain Talat rebuilt Islamabad innings and took the score beyond 100. Just when it looked as if United could regain the upper hand, Rahat was reintroduced into the attack and he delivered another breakthrough on the first ball of the 13th over. It was the dangerous Delport who departed.
When Talat was dismissed it seemed as if United's chances were over but Asif and Faheem Ashraf turned the match around. Asif in particular smacked some of his trademark effortless sixes to break the Qalandars hearts.
In the end, the defending champions chased down the target with five wickets and four balls to spare.
Lahore: Fakhar Zaman, Sohail Akhtar, M Hafeez, AB de Villiers, Anton Devcich, Brendan Taylor, Carlos Brathwaite, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Rahat Ali.
Islamabad: Luke Ronchi, Phil Salt, Shadab Khan, Cameron Delport, Asif Ali, Mohammad Sami, Hussain Talat, Rizwan Hussain, Samit Patel, Faheem Ashraf, Waqas Masood