Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
Quetta Gladiators 203 for 5 (Roy 54, Sarfaraz 50*, Shadab 3-25) beat Islamabad United 199 for 8 (Hales 62, Faheem 55, Afridi 2-27, Faulkner 2-47) by five wickets
In what might have been the game of the tournament, Islamabad United somehow contrived to lose a humdinger of a high-scoring contest to Quetta Gladiators with three balls to spare. It wasn't so much a team performance by Quetta as a collection of individual gems, and the masterpiece they produced saw Quetta finish with 203 for 5, overhauling Islamabad United's 199 in the final over.
There was the beautiful brutality of Jason Roy's ball-striking, and a sensational 8-ball 23 from a returning Umar Akmal. Threading through them was a complicated yet ultimately triumphal half-century from the embattled Gladiators skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who sealed the win with a couple of final-over boundaries and bought himself - and his side - valuable breathing room in this competition.
The 20 overs of the chase were like an epic in themselves, with the passages of play so distinct from each other they were like self-contained episodes. The first segment saw Roy pick up where he'd left off against Lahore Qalandars, treating Islamabad's bowlers with the same disdain. An early reprieve came when Mohammad Wasim spilled a sitter at cow corner, with Roy immediately punishing Hasan Ali - whose horror run in the PSL continues - with three successive fours to finish off the over.
Faheem Ashraf and Liam Dawson were treated with the same contempt, and it wasn't until Shadab Khan cleaned up the England batter for 54 off 27 on the reverse sweep that Islamabad got a foot in the door. Unlike against Lahore, Quetta still needed a further 112 runs to get without Roy, and while the task had been made easier, they didn't quite possess batters of the same destructive calibre to keep up the carnage.
For the next few overs, James Vince and Sarfaraz Ahmed plodded along seemingly oblivious to the requirements of the target as the asking rate soared. Sarfaraz in particular struggled for rhythm; it wasn't until his 22nd delivery that he hit his first boundary. Once Shadab - who had another productive day with the ball - struck to remove Vince and then, crucially, Iftikhar Ahmed, the Gladiators needed 61 more off 27.
A cameo for the ages followed from Umar Akmal - remember him? - playing his first PSL game since the 2019 final. It lasted just eight balls, but in that time he struck three gigantic sixes, a yorker somehow scooped over long-on the shot of the night. When the whirlwind came to an end, the Gladiators needed just nine off seven.
Sarfaraz, who from the other end had also found his rhythm, was the perfect man to shepherd them across the finish line, sealing the win - and getting to an unbeaten half-century - with panache, a couple of sweetly-timed boundaries either side of the pitch capping the memorable win.
Much earlier on, when Islamabad were put in to bat, their innings went, well, as you'd expect Islamabad innings to go. They went hard early on, and when they lost wickets, they went even harder. Alex Hales was in sumptuous touch, taking just 32 balls to get to his 50 and finishing with 62 off 38. It was Shahid Afridi who got him out, and Afridi was one of the highlights of an electric night. Three wickets fell in his final over, one a run-out, and he inflicted another run-out with a direct hit himself as Islamabad collapsed from 100 for 1 to 109 for 6. By now, Afridi had figures of 4-0-27-2, and United were in danger of folding cheaply.
But they simply kept coming at Quetta. Tonight's lower-order saviour was Faheem, whose T20 batting pedigree had almost been forgotten. A terrific 29-ball 55 capitalised on the Gladiators losing some of their bowling discipline, and even then, there was time enough for Mohammad Wasim to smash the last two balls of the innings for six to help get Islamabad to 199, a total that had been almost inconceivable when Asif Ali had been as the sixth man out for Islamabad.
It looked as if they had got out of jail. But Roy, Umar Akmal, and in the end, Sarfaraz, proved reliable gatekeepers after all.
Over 20 • QG 203/5Gladiators won by 5 wickets (with 2 balls remaining)
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