Dhani, Rizwan help Multan Sultans remain in sight of top-four finish
Maqsood too chips in with bruising half-century as Sultans make it two in two in UAE leg
Multan Sultans 167 for 2 (Rizwan 82*, Maqsood 61) beat Peshawar Zalmi 166 for 7 (Rutherford 56, Akmal 35, Dhani 4-31) by eight wickets
Mohammad Rizwan's adjective-defying T20 run shows no signs of abating. On Sunday night, he produced another masterclass as the Multan Sultans coasted to an eight-wicket win over Peshawar Zalmi with 21 balls to spare. Chasing 167, Rizwan never once looked remotely under pressure as he caressed a classy 56-ball 82 without once appearing to take any risks. The flawless chase was merely following on from a fairly error-free effort from the Sultans' bowlers, who had the wood over the Zalmi batters for much of the innings. Only Sherfane Rutherford's breezy half-century briefly threatened to leave them with a bigger target. Batting first, Zalmi got themselves into a strong position thanks to evergreen opener Kamran Akmal, but the Sultans bowled well enough to ensured Zalmi never really succeeded in pulling clear. While speeding along to 70 inside the ninth over looked imperious, uncapped Shahnawaz Dhani's devastating second spell ripped the heart out of the top and middle order.
Imran Tahir, operating from the other end, while wicketless, rarely allows too many runs, and with the wickets falling and run-scoring spluttering, Zalmi were visibly fading in the game. A handful of clubbed sixes from Rutherford at the death threatened to rob the Sultans of momentum at the changeover, but a shoddy powerplay from the Zalmi bowlers meant all that advantage was swiftly squandered.
Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan operated too often along a leg-stump line Rizwan was working away to a vacant boundary for fun, and with wides and misfields thrown into the mix, it was little surprise to see the 50 brought up in the fifth over.
Once Sohaib Maqsood got together with Rizwan, the contrast of styles proved a devastating combination, much too hot for Riaz's side to handle. If Rizwan was painting his way through his innings, Maqsood was hammering away during his. A whirlwind 31-ball 61 guaranteed this was never going to be allowed to go too deep, and when Rizwan helped a Riaz delivery over fine leg with six to go, it seemed a fitting way to end.
The Rutherford Revival
With eight overs to go and Dhani's four-wicket burst leaving Zalmi reeling, it was Rutherford who ensured what looked set to be a below-par total would end up a somewhat competitive one. Having taken a few balls to bed in, he was content to play second fiddle to David Miller initially. But when Miller holed out thanks to a spectacular catch from Rizwan, Zalmi were running out of batters, and the time for caution was over.
A six clubbed back over Blessing Muzarabani's head began a momentum shift, but the left-hander was only getting started. He would follow it up with a monster hit over square leg the same over, and two more off Sohail Tanvir brought up a 34-ball half-century. Where Zalmi looked like they might meander to 140, 45 runs off the final three overs got them to 166.
Dhani's fluctuating fortunes
Nothing about the way this game began suggested it might be Dhani's day. He put down a sitter to reprieve Haider Ali in the third over, and went on to leak 15 the first time he came on in the fifth. It was a curious over that involved the veteran Kamran Akmal placing him across the park for three successive boundaries, followed by Rizwan spilling an easy chance to deny Dhani his wicket.
Dhani followed it up with a beamer that struck his captain on the shin in an all-round horror show. When he came back for his second spell, Ali greeted him with a swiped six off the first ball. From that nadir, Dhani would turn things around to somehow become the pick of the Sultans bowlers.
Akmal and Shoaib Malik were removed off successive deliveries, and Dhani would take two more in a brilliant follow-up over. Ali holed out to mid-off before the dangerous Rovman Powell top-edged a pull thanks to a canny change of pace, leaving Zalmi reeling after a strong start. It helped keep the target manageable and Rizwan, who took a phenomenal catch running backwards to remove Powell, ensured with the bat Dhani's efforts would not be in vain.
Where they stand
Multan bolster their chances of finishing in the top four, and are tied with fourth-placed Karachi on six points. Peshawar remain third with eight.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000