Asif Ali is the son of an Iron smith and that’s why he has an iron will, and that’s what came handy in his match-turning fiery 19-ball 36 run innings that lifted title holders Islamabad United to a hard fought five-wicket victory in the opening HBL PSL game against Lahore Qalandars in Dubai on Thursday.
The dashing batsman from Faisalabad came to the crease when 68 runs were needed in 6.5 overs. He found an able ally in Faheem Ashraf as the duo added 59 for the unbroken sixth wicket stand.
Asif, 27, said he was confident of guiding his team to the finish line if he batted until the last over.
“When I went out to bat ten runs per over were required, so I thought that we have to go till the end, ” said Asif, who smashed three sixes and two boundaries to help Islamabad overhaul the 172-run target with four balls to spare.
Asif said excessive dew helped batting and affected Lahore’s fast bowlers.
“Since dew was there it was tough to bowl,” said Asif. “The pitch was good for batting and as the ball was skidding from the fast bowler due to dew and it helped us. I told Faheem that we must go till the last over. If we had 30-35 runs to score in the last three then we knew we could have achieved that.”
When 28 were needed off the last three overs, Asif smashed two consecutive sixes off left-arm pacer Rahat Ali to bring down the target to 12 off 12 balls.
“When I went out to bat I was confident that I will finish the game and win for my team. I was confident that if I was there until the last over and as the ball was coming onto my bat then I will win it for my team. Those two sixes were from middle of the bat and I thoroughly enjoyed the two hits,” said Asif.
His sixes spoiled Rahat’s figures from 13-4 in the first three to 29-4 in four overs.
Asif came into prominence by scoring a whirlwind century in the Twenty20 domestic event eight years ago, smashing seven sixes and nine boundaries. The then Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq supported him, also bringing him in Islamabad’s fold for the HBL PSL season one.
Despite having a strike rate of 130 plus in both 50-over and 20-over cricket, Asif has yet to cement his place in Pakistan team. He was dropped from the ODI side after a poor show in the Asia Cup where he managed just 77 in four innings. His failure to finish the match against Bangladesh after scoring 31 was disappointing.
But Asif hopes a good show in HBL PSL four will help him get a ticket to World Cup 2019.
“That’s my aim …. to stage a comeback in the Pakistan ODI team,” vows Asif. “I want to play my natural game and win the most matches for my team in the PSL. If Allah has written it in my destiny I will definitely play the World Cup, which is my dream.”