Islamabad United 183 for 9 (Shadab 52*, Musa 17*, Shaheen 4-18) beat Lahore Qalandars 182 for 6 (Hafeez 98, Shadab 2-14) by one wicket
The touchpaper has been lit, the wheels are in motion. The PSL has truly come to life, and it did so with the unlikeliest, daftest, most ludicrous contest of T20 cricket you're ever likely to see. It might have ended with a predictable result, of Lahore Qalandars failing to hold their nerve when it mattered, while Islamabad United had ice running through theirs. But it didn't half take the scenic route, with Islamabad losing wickets regularly, each blow seemingly knocking them out of the game, only for the two-time champions to get off the mat, ready to have another go.
No one quite knows how it came to the final over, but we all found ourselves watching No. 11 Muhammad Musa wallop Usman Shinwari for six over cow corner to bring the required runs down to three. Moments later, he was scampering through for the winning run, collapsing in elation just as 11 Lahore men in front of a heartbroken home crowd keeled over in despair.
How do you make sense of that? It must have been weeks ago that Mohamad Hafeez rolled back the years to power Lahore towards a total in excess of 180, finishing two runs shy of a hundred few would begrudge the 39-year old. It combined the two attributes Hafeez frustratingly fails to find on the same day regularly enough: conventional elegance and judicious power-hitting, and on a day when Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn fell somewhat early, Hafeez shouldered the responsibility of scoring the bulk of Lahore's runs.
Having set Islamabad 182 to chase, Lahore got off to the perfect start thanks to Shaheen Afridi, whose face, contorted in agony as he stared down at his feet when the winning runs were scored perhaps the most harrowing picture of the night. For if ever a young man deserved to win a game, it was Shaheen Afridi, who kept Luke Ronchi on a leash in the first over before getting rid of him. Hafeez did likewise for Colin Munro, and when Shadab Khan walked out to bat at No. 4, it seemed like a desperate ploy.
But a combination of Lahore's almost impressive ability to self-destruct for sustained periods of time with an Islamabad batting order that continued to go for their shots in the face of increasingly insurmountable odds kept the game in a somewhat edgy balance. One wicket for Lahore would tilt it in their favour, before a profligate over from one of the bowlers - and there were a few of those today - swung it back the way of the defending champions. Shaheen would return in the 18th over and appeared to have finally, unassailably, put his side the right side of the result when he had Amad Butt nick off, leaving Nos. 10 and 11 with 20 to get off the final three overs.
But as Lahore's frenzied panic appeared to rise, 18-year old Musa was seeing things very clearly. Aware they only needed one big hit, he was content to see out a tricky penultimate over from Haris Rauf, and pounced on one that Shinwari banged in short and right within the teenager's swinging arc. It was suddenly three off five, and clinical as you like, Islamabad did it in singles.
Star of the day
With the Islamabad captain, Shadab, down on his luck with the ball, this was an especially opportune time to remind everyone of his all-round credentials. He held himself back until the Powerplay was done, but one, unbroken four-over spell would showcase the full range of his abilities. While Hussain Talat at the other end gave away 14 runs in his first over, that's all Shadab would leak in his entire allotment, which also included the vital wickets of Zaman and Dane Vilas.
Had you forgotten by any chance Shadab is an allrounder? With Islamabad teetering on the edge at 7 for 2 in the third over, out strode the 21-year old. A nick to Shaheen went unheard by seemingly everyone in the ground, but once that bit of fortune went his way, Shadab would show everyone how tremendously exciting a batsman he can be. He kicked off the carnage with a couple of clattered fours off Shinwari, before smashing Rauf for 17 in his first over. When the Powerplay was done, Shadab showed he wasn't. Hafeez and David Wiese would go for six before his fourth maximum of the evening brought up a 28-ball half-century. It might get lost among the madness at the finish, but the renewed confidence of their captain bodes very well for Islamabad going forward.
Miss of the day
Islamabad's openers. No really. Believe me. Check the scorecard. Both of them!
Ronchi has figured out the art of PSL batting better than perhaps any other overseas player, with his strike rate off the first handful of balls he faces higher than anyone in the game over the last two years. But Ronchi needs that first boundary. When Shaheen denied it to him off his first three deliveries, he began to get fidgety, and failed to spot the subtle deception off the following slower ball, spooning it to Wiese.
Munro had a quiet game too, undone by Hafeez, who had a charmed day all round. It left Islamabad in the unfamiliar position of needing the middle order to provide them the explosive start they are so used to. Enter Shadab…
Where the teams stand
Lahore remain winless and consequently rooted to the bottom of the table. With two wins in three matches, Islamabad go top with four points.