Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
Multan Sultans 176 for 3 (Rizwan 76, Masood 45, Hamza 2-24) beat Karachi Kings 174 for 6 (Clarke 40, Sharjeel 36, Dahani 2-44) by seven wickets
They might have left it a bit late, but the inevitable could not be thwarted. Multan Sultans, almost certain to top the table now, edged past Karachi Kings, guaranteed to finish bottom, in the final over, sealing a seven-wicket victory. In pursuit of 175, they were only trudging along at seven an over with five to go, with the asking rate at 14. But 71 runs in the last 27 balls - the last six a dashing flourish over square leg by Rilee Rossouw - condemned the Kings to their eighth successive defeat, at the same time ensuring the Sultans will get two bites at the cherry in their bid to qualify for the PSL final.
In the end, Karachi might blame a mystifying approach to the first innings, particularly the first ten overs. Only 57 came off the first nine, with vaunted power hitter Sharjeel Khan struggling badly, managing just 21 off his first 29 balls. With Babar Azam falling for just 2 off four, it was down to the middle order to salvage a respectable total for their side.
Sharjeel belatedly clicked into gear and was good for a couple of sixes, but hadn't nearly undone the damage he had caused in a somnambulant stroll of an innings when Khushdil Shah struck to remove him with just his second ball. The Kings seemed well off the pace until the last seven overs, and needed cameos from Rohail Nazir and Imad Wasim - who smashed an unbeaten 32 off 16 balls - to get the 174 they eventually did finish with, the late surge thanks coming courtesy of 75 runs in the final seven overs.
The Sultans innings looked, for the most part, very much like the batting effort of a side that already knew it was through to the next round. Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood appeared content to strike at just over a run-a-ball, prioritising preserving wickets on a pitch that didn't look quite as free-scoring as some in this tournament have. The free-flowing Masood was reined in for much of his innings, and would admit in a post-match interview he feared he had "messed up" the chase as the asking rate climbed inexorably and the Sultans' power-hitters sat in the dugout where they could do little damage.
It was only after Masood holed out to the deep-cover boundary that the game really moved into the next phase. Rizwan's best instincts came alive, and all of a sudden he seemed to be finding the gaps with every delivery, almost putting Tim David, batting alongside him, in the shade as he brought the run rate down single-handedly every over. When he fell for a 56-ball 76 that belied his early struggles, David quickly picked up the mantle with a couple of further boundaries, though his dismissal in the 18th over kept the Kings just in front.
It was, as it so often is in T20 cricket, the penultimate over when the game truly showed its hand. Khushdil Shah smashed Chris Jordan first ball for six over midwicket, with a remarkable flick of the wrists; astonishingly, it was the first six the Sultans had hit all game. The second would follow two balls later and a boundary came in between, leaving nine to get off the final over.
The winning shot was delightfully flamboyant from Rossouw, who moved across his stumps to pick Umaid Asif up over square leg for six, before nonchalantly folding his arms and holding the pose. It showed a swagger that comes so easily to the Sultans right now, and is wholly missing from the Kings, for whom this campaign cannot conclude soon enough.
Over 20 • MS 176/3Sultans won by 7 wickets (with 3 balls remaining)
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