Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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County DIV1 (4)
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Lahore Qalandars 168 for 7 (Shafique 52, Ghulam 30, Wiese 28*, Dawson 2-24) beat Islamabad United 162 all out (Azam 40, Hales 38, Rauf 2-31) by 6 runs
It was a contest of data against vibes, and at a packed Gaddafi stadium where the vibes were overwhelmingly pro-Lahore, Lahore Qalandars pulled a rabbit out of the hat to stun Islamabad United by six runs and book themselves a final berth. Chasing 169, Islamabad United looked well on course for much of their innings, spearheaded by a 79-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Alex Hales and Azam Khan. But quick wickets at the death saw United lose their nerve, and Lahore crept back into the contest by stealth. With seven required off three balls, United's No 11 Waqas Maqsood smashed one in the direction of wide long-on. Abdullah Shafique held on to the catch, inches short of the boundary, and as the heavens opened, it really felt like the Qalandars' PSL title drought might finally be coming to an end.
How United found themselves in that position may well be pored over by the side for hours afterwards. They needed 39 off the last five, and were effectively coasting to their target. Oddly, however, the Qalandars had defended exactly that equation in one of these two sides' group games, and when Haris Rauf removed Hales, there was the faint hope that history might repeat itself, even though Lahore were sloppy - a Shaheen Afridi no-ball denied him a wicket and Asif Ali smashed one from Rauf right in the slot for six to make the equation 10 off 10. A fateful decision from Asif, however, to try and take on Haris off the final ball of the penultimate over when retaining the strike seemed the obvious call led to his downfall, and the Qalandars were back in it.
The decision-making grew only more puzzling from thereon. Mohammad Wasim refused singles off the first two balls of the final over to make it eight off four, and then tried to come back for a suicidal second, leaving the game at the mercy of Maqsood at No 11. He nearly did send the only ball he faced over cow corner, but he, and United, would end up inches short. David Wiese, and his side celebrated maniacally in the rain, and a capacity crowd joined them in the crazed frenzy.
And all this in a game where the Qalandars had for so long seemed to be dancing to United's tunes. They opted to bat first upon winning the toss - Shadab Khan pointedly said he would have bowled anyway with some rain forecast - and then slumped to 9 for 2 inside four overs, losing Fakhar Zaman and Phil Salt to a superb opening spell from Liam Dawson. A magnificent rearguard from Abdullah Shafique and Kamran Ghulam - they would add 73 off 42 balls - brought the Qalandars back into the contest. There was an elegant violence to Shafique's 28-ball 52, so seamlessly did he switch from classical shotmaking to brute-force hitting, and for a while, United's attack looked to have been beaten back.
That couldn't continue endlessly, and United struck back hard. Shadab Khan deceived Ghulam in the flight to break the partnership, and took a lovely catch off Maqsood's bowling to remove Shafique, while some self-destructive running put paid to Harry Brooks. Qalandars slumped along to 141 in 19 overs, before, pricelessly, their perpetual saviour Wiese bludgeoned 27 off the final over to give his side something to bowl at.
It was time for Qalandars' star-studded bowling line-up to stand up, and that is what they did. The returning Paul Stirling fell to a stunning catch from Rauf off Shaheen Shah Afridi's bowling, and Hales was starved of the strike, facing just eight balls in the powerplay. At the other end, Lahore continued to chip away, and before the powerplay was out, Will Jacks, Shadab Khan and Liam Dawson had all fallen.
Just as yesterday, however, Hales and Azam played vital knocks to keep United in the hunt. Azam smashed a four and a six off Mohammad Hafeez's only over, while Hales dealt the same treatment to Samit Patel as United began to break the back of the chase. Qalandars briefly lost their discipline in the field. Three consecutive balls saw, in the following order: a Hales drop that went for six, five wides, and another Hales drop, suddenly making the equation a very favourable 55 off 47 with six wickets in hand.
A sloppy run-out to get rid of, predictably, Azam, brought Qalandars back into the contest, before a smart catch from Ghulam finally removed Hales. Suddenly, the Qalandars were sneaking into the United tail, though a poor final over from Shaheen put United back in pole position. Zaman Khan, who has had a breakout tournament, dismissed Hasan Ali as he tried to go for a six, and the game would go the distance.
The second innings would end as the first did, with Wiese trying to drag back this enigmatic Qalandars side into the contest. In a lot of ways, it's felt like this South African-Namibian allrounder has personified Qalandars' struggles these last few years, from their mesmeric brilliance to depressing listlessness. The joy on his face as Shafique took that final catch, though, suggested he wouldn't change it for the world.
For United, though, a tournament in which they had little right to go as deep as this, given the injuries they've endured, would end with a fourth successive season without a final berth. For the side that extols the virtues of six-hitting to an almost messianic extent, it was perhaps appropriate that they fell short by precisely that number.
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Wiese's all-round heroics put Lahore Qalandars in PSL final
Having smacked 28 off 8, he sealed victory by bowling the final over of a seesawing thriller