Islamabad United 165 for 6 (Talat 56, Zulfiqar 2-17) beat Quetta Gladiators 164 for 5 (Pietersen 69, Shehzad 59, Irfan 1-23) by one run
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Highlights - Mohammad Sami defends four in final over
Highlights - Mohammad Sami defends four in final over

In a nutshell

It doesn't matter if you were watching this or not, no one knows how this happened. How a team that needed 17 from 19 balls with nine wickets in hand, a team that required seven from two overs with only three wickets down, somehow contrived to muck up a T20 chase and lose by one run. Especially since that team was Quetta Gladiators.

This was every inch as routine a chase as Quetta managed 24 hours earlier. It had the colossal partnership, this time a 133-run monster between Kevin Pietersen and the in-form Ahmed Shehzad, and the inevitability of the asking rate decreasing over by over. It even had the opposition coach calling for an early timeout and losing his rag at the expense of his team.

But in inexplicable fashion, Quetta got to within a metre of the finish line, and stayed there, almost as if they were caught in quicksand. Or maybe they just wanted to give last-over bowler Mohammad Sami the best birthday gift of his life on the day he turned 36. In any case, the defending champions seized the moment as the table toppers froze like a deer in headlights to eke out the unlikeliest of wins and secure a playoff spot.

Islamabad's innings had been defined by an inability to take off even though the platform had been set by Hussain Talat, so highly regarded by everyone at the franchise yet only playing his first match. He provided the impetus after Dwayne Smith's first over dismissal, and was particularly punishing on another emerging player, Hasan Khan. Talat dominated the Islamabad innings early on - off the 74 runs made while he was at the crease, Talat was responsible for 56. They were, incredulously, in a winning cause.

Where the match was won

It wasn't, simply put. It was lost in a haze of confusion and panic that swept right across the Quetta team. It began with an ordinary decision to give Pietersen out lbw to break the century stand, and with seven required off 12 balls, the strange call to send in Anwar Ali instead of a regular batsman backfired.

Rumman Raees and Mohammad Sami hit their lengths regularly, Raees consistently going for yorker length and more or less pulling it off each delivery. The first ball from Sami was poor, but Anwar Ali failed to put it away. Bedlam ensued, and Islamabad were that bit more composed at the end. Even so, they never should have won this funny old game, but somehow, they did.

The men that won it

Raees and Sami deserve all the credit they will get for pulling a rabbit out of the hat, but one unsung hero was Islamabad's veteran allrounder Shane Watson. As Islamabad's innings struggled to move through the gears towards the end, and with Misbah-ul-Haq struggling badly for timing and Brad Haddin for form, it looked like they might have to settle for a total near 150.

However, Watson provided a measure of competitiveness with forceful power hitting in the final over, with Anwar conceding 18. It saw Islamabad surge to 165, and as was evident less than two hours later, they needed every one of those.

Strength in numbers

The second-wicket stand between Pietersen and Shehzad was the highest of this year's edition of the PSL and second-highest in the two-year history of the competition. It saw the Gladiators make a 133 runs in 86 balls, and during that time, Pietersen also became the most prolific six-hitter in the PSL this year, with three more strikes clearing the rope to take him to 11 in six innings.

The moment of the match

The most perfect illustration of how panic had fogged the minds of Quetta's batsmen in those final overs at the crease was displayed on the very last ball of this remarkable contest. With Quetta needing three to win and two to tie, their leading scorer Rilee Rossouw was on strike. Sami bowled a fast low full toss on leg stump, and the South African couldn't get under it, mistiming it instead straight to Misbah at midwicket.

Rossouw ran the first one, but seemed to give up right there, resigned to defeat. What he hadn't noticed was Misbah's throw to the bowler had been fumbled, and Thisara Perera at the other end was charging down the wicket to attempt a second run. Rossouw looked at Perera and bizarrely sent him back. It was a surreal moment to end the most fantastical of contests.

Where they stand

The only positive for Quetta is they're still top of the table, and destined for the playoffs. Islamabad's one-run win means they are guaranteed to join the Gladiators there, and for now occupy second place.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000