Kamran ton ushers Peshawar into Lahore final
Peshawar Zalmi 181 for 3 (Kamran Akmal 104) beat Karachi Kings 157 for 7 (Pollard 47, Wahab 3-24, Jordan 3-26) by 24 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In a nutshell
A clinical all-round showing by Peshawar Zalmi ensured they would avoid last season's heartbreak, seeing off Karachi Kings to qualify for the PSL final. In a resounding performance at the Dubai International Stadium - spearheaded by a superlative hundred from Kamran Akmal - Peshawar never really let Karachi within touching distance of the target of 182, starving them of runs in the first six overs, and ensuring not even a stirring Chris Gayle and an explosive Kieron Pollard could rob them of a spot in Lahore.
Peshawar looked ready for the occasion from ball one - which Akmal smashed for four - with the openers making up for the horror start in the first playoff loss to Quetta Gladiators. Kamran and Dawid Malan put on a classy 97-run stand to set a solid foundation to push toward a 200 total. Akmal seemed to get better as the innings wore on, no bowler able to subdue the diminutive keeper's power hitting as sixes flew off his blade and he roared towards the PSL's first century of 2017 and second in the two-year history of the competition. Accurate death bowling, particularly from Mohammad Amir, meant only 21 runs came off the last three overs, but the 181 that Peshawar put up was more than enough to handle for Karachi.
Where the match was won
A chase of 182 on a pitch friendly to the batsmen wasn't impossible, but a hopeless start for the Kings surely made it so. Leading scorer Babar Azam falling for 1 wasn't ideal, but Gayle's mystifying approach would have maddened Karachi fans more than anything else. He scored 2 off his first 15 balls in what could only be called a solipsistic performance: one man's quest to get his eye in oblivious to the demands of the asking rate.
It placed pressure on batsmen at the other end; Kumar Sangakarra and Shoaib Malik fell in the Powerplay attempting to kick on, and by the time Pollard arrived, Karachi found themselves at 34 for 4 in the ninth over. It was a deep hole, and in the end, too deep even for Gayle and Pollard to dig their team out of.
The men that won it
Kamran seems to have found a new lease of life at 35 years of age, and Peshawar have benefitted richly from it this PSL campaign. His form was obvious from the very start, the wicketkeeper batsman guiding the first two balls for two elegant offside boundaries. He picked the bowler's lengths exceptionally early, and was particularly devastating against the spinners, taking on any full-length deliveries and launching them straight down the ground. He seemed unplayable towards the latter stages of the innings, Ravi Bopara's medium-pacers coming in for particular punishment.
When he ended his innings, Kamran had become the highest scorer of the PSL, and his century in the biggest game of the tournament so far, coupled with the form leading up to it, has made him harder and harder to ignore for the national side. For Peshawar, at the moment, he is simply indispensable.
Who's playing the final?
The struggles the PSL has faced in trying to organise the final in Lahore have been well-documented, particularly with regards to the availability of foreign players for the showpiece occasion. Peshawar, however, experienced an ill-timed injury today to one of their biggest domestic stars. On the first ball of the tenth over, Pollard smashed a ball to cover. As Shahid Afridi attempted an improbable catch, it burst through his fingers, splitting the webbing on his right hand.
Blood streamed down his index finger as he rushed off the field, and though Peshawar have plenty of reasons to celebrate today, the last thing the PSL needs is the absence of its biggest local superstar and unfortunately that is the case. Afridi was pictured after the match with his hand heavily bandaged and has been ruled out of the final.
Moment of the match
If any player deserved to carry his bat through a T20 innings, it was Kamran today. But what he perhaps deserved more was the overwhelming adulation he received when he was run out in the final over of the innings.
A packed Dubai crowd rose as one, his trudge back to the pavilion met with thunderous applause. Even the Karachi players joined in the ovation, most coming up to the Peshawar opener to shake his hand as he made his way off. Kamran, never one as comfortable with stardom as some of his Pakistani teammates, looked genuinely humbled at the respect he got, even if it was no more than he had earned.
Where they stand
This was a virtual semi-final, and Karachi's loss eliminates Sangakkara's men. Peshawar go through to the final, to be played against Quetta Gladiators at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000