Karachi Kings 125 for 3 (Denly 36, Ingram 31) beat Islamabad United 124 (Asif 34, Usman 4-14, Afridi 2-18) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In a nutshell
If Kamran Akmal's heroics meant Peshawar Zalmi had thrown down the gauntlet to Karachi Kings, fast bowler Usman Khan and his fellow Karachi quicks picked it up and ran with it like it was a baton, dismantling Islamabad and sealing a comfortable seven-wicket win. That took them through to the playoffs, Eoin Morgan's men finishing second in the final standings.
A thrilling spell of raw fast-bowling from the 23-year old was too hot for league leaders Islamabad United to handle, as he burst through Islamabad with four wickets for 17 runs. Mohammad Amir and Tymal Mills were nearly as impressive, if not quite as prolific as far as the wickets were concerned. Shahid Afridi also chipped in, taking two wickets as Misbah-ul-Haq's men were bowled out in 19 overs for just 124.
Karachi Kings needed to score just 109 to ensure safe passage into the playoffs, but they never looked like falling short of the real target. A characteristically truculent knock from Joe Denly on his 32nd birthday set them on their way, the former England international smashing 36 off 28 balls. Besides that, the pace of the chase was sedate, but then again, it needn't have been any more than that. All the excitement had come in the first innings, and this was simply going to be a procession. Babar Azam and Colin Ingram played calm innings to see their side through, meaning Karachi finish in the top two, and will take on Islamabad United in the first playoff again on Sunday. The game might not have been the most exhilarating for the neutrals - and certainly not for a helpless Multan Sultans, now eliminated from the tournament - but Karachi will feel there's plenty of time for that in the coming week or so.
Where the match was won
Ermmm…maybe before the match began? Islamabad, whose six-match winning streak meant they were guaranteed top spot before Friday's double-header, were especially conservative with their team selection, leaving out key performers in Luke Ronchi, Samit Patel and Mohammad Sami. A drop in intensity may have played its part; this was, after all, a game with nothing riding on it for the 2016 champions, while for Karachi, it was a virtual eliminator.
There was no question they wanted it more, and from the start, they played like it. Islamabad were slightly sluggish all evening, almost as if saving some energy for the upcoming playoffs. Islamabad never quite got going, while Karachi never let up. It's certain to be a different story in two days' time.
The men that won it
Batting partnerships are often raved about, with bowling partnerships not nearly getting the same kind of credit. Karachi's fast bowlers teamed up like a band of brothers, closing in on the batsmen together, and stifling them over by over, body blow by body blow. The wickets might mainly have fallen to Usman, but if ever wickets could be granted assists in the way goals in football are, Friday would be a good day to begin.
Mohammad Amir built up the pressure while Tymal Mills intimidated the batsmen. The looming threat of elimination had united the Karachi side, and it wasn't wickets or personal glory that concerned them as much as putting two points on the board and going to the sharp end of the competition. Having stuttered in recent games, their vaunted bowling attack came together in devastating fashion. These performances aren't easy to reproduce, but Karachi fans will be salivating at the prospect of their side reaching the final and treating them to a similar spectacle.
The T20 specialist, the bygone maestro
Islamabad's good form has managed to keep it under wraps somewhat, but even causal observers of the PSL would have noticed how peripheral to his team's successes Misbah-ul-Haq has been. There may still be very few questions of his astuteness - or even modernity - as a captain. But he is self-aware enough to realise that he may not be best-placed when it comes to meeting the demands of contemporary T20 batting. Having slipped further down the order throughout the season, he came in at No. 4, with Islamabad looking like they needed a rebuilding job.
But Tymal Mills, the wiliest of fast bowlers in this format, had cottoned on to Misbah's vulnerability, and, off his first five balls, pegged him back with sharp, nasty bouncers. Two of them found inventive routes to hammer into to Misbah's gloves. It was hard to watch after a point. His dismissal, if anything, was even further evidence of his waning powers; Afridi lobbed one up that Misbah used to hit for six in his sleep. He was deceived in the flight, and ended up having an ungainly hoick at the ball. He missed, and the ball, perhaps mercifully, crashed into his leg stump.
Where they stand
With the group stage now over, Islamabad have finished top, and will take on second-placed Karachi Kings in the first playoff. Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi will play in an eliminator on Tuesday at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, while Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars bow out.