Faheem Ashraf and Asif Ali sparkled with bat and ball as Islamabad United thrashed Lahore Qalandars by five wickets in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) IV opener at Dubai International Stadium here on Thursday night. Asif justified his reputation of a big hitter as he smashed a whirlwind 19-ball 36 with three sixes and two boundaries to guide defending champions Islamabad to marvelous win. The 27-year-old, son of an Ironsmith from Faisalabad, wielded his bat like a hammer as Islamabad chased down 172-run target with four balls to spare, with Faheem sending the ball sailing over mid-wicket for the winning six. Earlier, Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman had lifted Lahore to 171-8 with a polished 44-ball 65 studded with three sixes and six boundaries while fellow opener Sohail Akhtar made 30-ball 37. Left-arm paceman Rahat Ali turned from hero to villian as Lahore — having finished last in all three editions of the PSL — were brought back in the game with four wickets in his three overs for just 13 runs. But Asif smashed Rahat for two sixes in the 18th over to spoil his figures and snatched victory for Islamabad. Hussian Talat made 30-ball 37 with three fours and a six but Islamabad were in a spot of bother, needing 103 in the last ten overs. But Asif put them on the winning ways with some clean hitting. Islamabad captain Mohammad Sami praised Asif’s hitting prowess. “Asif is such a good player that he can change the complexion of the game in few balls and that he did today,” said Sami. “Lahore got off to a good start but Faheem and Asif brought us back in the match.” Lahore captain Mohammad Hafeez rued lost momentum in slog overs. “We should have scored 190 but even a 172 run target was good,” said Hafeez. “Islamabad bowled well and then our execution in the final overs in bowling was not good.” Luke Ronchi, top run getter in last year’s PSL with 435 in 11 games, had started off well with 17-ball 27 with a six and four boundaries but became one of three wickets to fall in the sixth over bowled by Rahat. Talat and Cameroon Delport, who made 24 with two sixes, added 55 for the fourth wicket before Asif gave the finishing touches. Lahore were badly let down by lanky Pakistan paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who conceded 45 runs in his four wicket-less overs. Lahore, like in the past three editions, lost their way in the final overs after getting a brisk 97-run start by the 11th over. They managed just 78 runs in the last ten, losing eight wickets. Fakhar showed his intentions with the very first ball, driving Sami exquisitely through the covers for a boundary and then lifted spinner Samit Patel for a six to deep mid-wicket boundary followed by a boundary. At the other end Sohail was in an equally punishing mood, hitting four boundaries and a six as they made 97 for the opening wicket. A capacity crowd welcomed AB de Villiers who is featuring for the first time in PSL. After initial struggle AB smashed two exquisite boundaries, piercing the narrow gap in the field. He then smashed a six off Hussain but a brilliant catch by Phil Salt cut short his innings. AB’s whack off seamer Waqas Maqsood was smartly held at the boundary as Philip Salt moved back, jumped up over his left shoulder to grab the ball head high with both hands. AB hit two boundaries and a six in his 17-ball 24. Anton Devcich (14), Brendon Taylor (two), Carlos Brahwaite (six) and Hafeez (five not out) — all failed to give impetus to the innings as Lahore lost six wickets for just 34 runs. Brief scores: Islamabad United 177 for 5 (Hussain Talat 37, Asif Ali 36 not out, Rahat Ali 4-29) beat Lahore Qalandars 171 for 8 (Fakhar Zaman 65, Faheem Ashraf 2-24) by five wickets. Today’s fixtures Islamabad United v Multan Sultans, Dubai (4:30 pm, PST) Lahore Qalandars v Karachi Kings, Dubai (9:00 pm, PST) Published in Daily Times, February 16th 2019.