Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
The good times had to end some day, and for Islamabad United, that day was today. The PSL's most successful team bowed out of the competition at the first hurdle for the first time since its inception, with a fantastic comeback against Karachi Kings not quite enough in the end to keep them in contention. An ordinary effort with the bat meant they had a mountain to climb if they were to restrict Karachi's slew of explosive batsman under the 137 they had set them for victory, and a disastrous first two overs that saw Sharjeel Khan bludgeon 36 didn't help matters. They would pull Karachi back magnificently in the middle overs, and towards the end looked like they had done enough for a great escape act, but a pair of lusty blows from the unlikely bat of Umaid Asif meant sneaked Karachi home with four balls to spare, and through to the last four, at the same time sending Islamabad out.
Just as in the previous game, Karachi had their bowlers to thank for making things easier in the second innings. In a superbly disciplined bowling performance, they would stifle Islamabad right from the outset, no bowler allowing himself to be a weak link the batsman could pick off. Mohammad Amir began superbly, the changes of pace and the sideways movement keeping Islamabad on their toes, while five different bowlers were amongst the wickets. No bowler, Usama Mir aside, went for over 7.7 an over. Then Chris Jordan's customarily brilliant death bowling prevented Islamabad from the big finish they desperately needed to keep themselves in contention.
Islamabad, in truth, were severely hampered by the absence of four key overseas players, and it showed in the top order. The absence of Luke Ronchi and Colin Munro was crippling, with Phil Salt and Rizwan Hussain not able to put the bowlers under similar pressure, and Colin Ingram, who they needed a big contribution from, was run out after a mix-up. Even Shadab Khan, who has been a revelation with the bat, was subdued, and only managed a scratchy 14-ball 12 before top edging Arshad Iqbal.
A low total meant Islamabad needed early wickets, but what they got instead was a brutal onslaught from Sharjeel Khan that looked like it had put the game to bed. He flew to 32 off 9 balls, with four sixes and a couple of boundaries as Karachi knocked off nearly a third of the target in the first two overs. His wicket slowed things down considerably, and Karachi were nearly punished for being overly cautious when the asking rate began to creep up and the pressure mount. When Imad Wasim, Cameron Delport and Iftikhar Ahmed fell, they still needed over 30 to win, and the required rate had shot up beyond 10.
A six and a four from Walton helped, but when he chopped one to extra cover, the game looked gone. Asif would step up as Shadab's patchy form with the ball continued, the Islamabad captain conceding 13 runs in the penultimate over meaning Karachi needed just five from the final one. The win was sealed with a glorious off drive from Asif, and Islamabad's charmed relationship with the PSL finally suffered its first serious blow.
Muhammad Musa's mixed bag
It was quite a day Muhammad Musa had, and didn't seem an especially memorable one for the teenager when Sharjeel carted him away for two fours and two sixes in his first over. It would get worse when he finally came back on for his second spell, the first ball driven back hard by Babar Azam, the ball clattering into his shin. He spent some time writhing in agony, but it was just the start of a sensational comeback spell. That over would end up being a wicket maiden, with the wicket being that of Azam. With Karachi more circumspect during the middle overs in the belief they could coast through, Musa tightened the screws, tighter than a taxman's purse as he allowed just four in his remaining two overs. After getting smashed for 20 in his first over, Musa would concede just four in his remaining three, helping his side get to the brink of victory.
There was more than one, but let's allow recency bias to look at the one that finally decided the game's fate. With the asking rate having crept up and Asif's reputation with the bat not exactly world-renowned, Shadab decided to pepper him with a few flat, quick balls instead of conventional legspinners. It worked the first couple of times, but the Islamabad captain tried it once too often. With 13 needed off 8, Asif hung back in anticipation of another dart, and was in prime position to time the full toss over long-on for a huge six. The game had turned on a single delivery, and Islamabad would pay a dear price for it.
Where the teams stand
Karachi Kings have qualified for the last four, and go up to second in the table for now. Islamabad United are fifth, and now cannot finish in the top four, meaning they become the first side to be eliminated.