Lahore Qalandars 144 for 5 (Sohail 40, Hasan 2-27) beat Islamabad United 143 for 9 (Faheem 27, Faulkner 3-32) by five wickets
Few games are worth waiting three months for, but on the resumption, the PSL served up a UAE-style thriller. In a game that the Lahore Qalandars dominated but somehow found a way to lose control of in the final few overs, Rashid Khan
smashed three fours off the final over, when they needed 16, to rescue a game that had slipped away for his side, condemning Islamabad United to a stunning last-ball defeat. With one needed off the final delivery, Tim David's top edge cleared the keeper, and United's fate was sealed.
The Qalandars had got off to a brilliant start thanks to three wickets up top from James Faulkner
in the first innings. United struggled for fluency throughout the innings as wickets fell regularly, with only a cameo from Faheem Ashraf
, who top-scored with a 24-ball 27, taking them past 120. That late surge dragged Shadab Khan's team back into the game, with the 143 they posted looking like the sort of total that was just about defensible in the UAE; the very notion would have been unthinkable in Karachi.
Fakhar Zaman and Sohail Akhtar
got the Qalandars off to a fluent start, but accurate, disciplined bowling from United derailed the chase fairly soon. Zaman lost fluency and was cleaned up by Ashraf , and as the asking rate began to climb, captain Akhtar became increasingly key for his side. When he smashed Shadab for 15 in the 12th over, the Qalandars were back in the game, but the true consequences of that over were yet to emerge.
With wickets falling regularly and Ben Dunk nowhere near his best, the game looked dead and buried for the Qalandars when Hasan Ali removed the Australian in a superb penultimate over. Singaporean international David's six off the final ball meant United needed to defend 15, and Shadab threw Hussain Talat the ball instead of taking it himself. Rashid smashed him for three successive boundaries, and a rollercoaster of a contest was suddenly done and dusted.
Shadab's confidence with the ball isn't what it might have been, but even so, backing Talat, who didn't otherwise bowl all day, to line up for that final over seemed an unnecessary risk. Shadab would later say he didn't fancy bowling at the left-handers, and with Dunk there till the 19th over, he kept himself away from the bowling crease. But Dunk was gone, and with Rashid and David batting, there were two right-handers out in the middle for the Qalandars. Shadab, nevertheless, didn't quite trust himself at the moment. Talat's over was fairly ordinary, in truth, but given it was his first, laying the blame at his feet would be excessively harsh.
Faulkner's military medium
Faulkner was a surprising pick in the replacement draft for the Qalandars anyway, but when he was thrown the ball to open alongside Shaheen Afridi, the faith the Qalandars had placed in him seemed excessive. Even more so when he shuffled to deliver what could most generously be termed medium-fast deliveries and Colin Munro took him apart with a four and a six off successive deliveries.
But it was that lack of pace that would prove especially destructive on a slow pitch, particularly when the Australian mixed it up by deliberately taking the pace off some. Munro was undone when he played down the wrong line, but Faulkner was only getting started. While Afridi was unfortunate not to pick up wickets, his less celebrated new-ball partner was more than making up for it. Rohail Nazir was undone by an offcutter that slowed off the surface, while Shadab found no timing on another slower delivery as United reeled. Akhtar was so impressed that Faulkner went on to bowl his full allotment of four on the trot, and by the time he was done taking three wickets, his side was in charge.
The Rashid Khan masterclass
It's difficult to overstate the enormity of the impact Rashid's availability had on the Qalandars' chances. While it seemed initially he would be lost to Sussex for the T20 Blast at this time of year, he chose to stick with the PSL, and with the opportunity to bowl in these conditions, why wouldn't he? Rashid in the PSL is just about as close to a cheat code as T20 cricket has these days, and with United already under pressure when he was introduced, the Afghan asphyxiated them through the middle overs.
His four overs conceded just nine runs, along with the wicket of Talat, as the wheels came off entirely for the batting side. The combination of the quicker, flatter delivery, the conventional legbreak, and a devilish googly ran United ragged, and by the time he was done, United had only managed to hobble on to 101 for 7 in 16 overs. And all that without mentioning his later exploits with the bat.
Where they stand
United slip to fourth, with three wins in five, whilethe Qalandars go top
with eight points and four wins in five matches.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000