Multan Sultans sent shockwaves through the Pakistan Super League on Thursday by inflicting a seven-wicket defeat on reigning champions Peshawar Zalmi in the opening encounter of the tournament's 2018 edition in Dubai.
The Sultans were wobbled at the start of their innings when they lost opener Ahmed Shehzad for a duck in pursuit of the 152-run target set by Peshawar Zalmi.
Following that early setback, Kumar Sangakkara stabilised the ship as Sohaib Maqsood went on the offensive, pulling Hammad Azam for a six.
After seven overs, Zalmi introduced 19-year-old leg-spinner Ibtisam Sheikh into the attack, hoping for a breakthrough.
The youngster impressed in his first over but the breakthrough that the champions needed was provided from the other end by left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar.
Maqsood came down the track, took needless risk and ended up throwing away his wicket like he used to playing for Pakistan.
Sangakkara, meanwhile, kept on doing what he did throughout his international career, picking singles and doubles to go with an odd boundary here and there — playing the classic anchorman role.
Sangakkara brought up his fifty and his team's 100 with a flick over fine leg against the bowling of Sammy.
The breakthrough that the defending champions needed finally came in the 15th over when Riaz had Sangakkara caught behind. The Sri Lankan maestro departed with 57 runs to his name off 51 deliveries.
The Zalmi bowlers were unable to find any more success against the Sultans batters as Malik added 42, which featured a match-winning six at the end to make sure his side got the win.
Former Karachi Kings batsman Pollard also chipped in with 21 runs.
In the match's opening innings, Zalmi had a quiet first over as Sultans' fast bowler Sohail Tanvir bowled a pretty tight line and length, not allowing the Zalmi batters any room to free up their arms.
Tamim Iqbal survived a major appeal in the second over but Kamran Akmal was not that fortunate as he skied a Mohammad Irfan delivery, with Hardus Viljoen accepting the catch.
West Indian Dwayne Smith struck the first boundary of the PSL 2018 off the bowling of Tanvir in the third over.
Iqbal struck a few boundaries of his own before giving his wicket to the towering Irfan. But more than the wicket it was the catch that caught the eye as Junaid Khan sprinted in from fine leg and dived full length to accept what could be an early contender for the catch of the tournament.
Smith also hit the first six of the PSL 2018, dispatching Imran Tahir over long on for a maximum in the eighth over.
By the tenth over, Zalmi had 57 runs on the board for the loss of two wickets with Smith and Mohammad Hafeez in the middle.
In his attempt to accelerate the scoring, Smith paid the price as Tahir opened his account for the tournament.
Hafeez was then joined at the crease by Harris Sohail, who gave an account of his hitting abilities with a maximum straight over the bowler's head.
However, the southpaw couldn't stick with Hafeez for too long as he was removed by Viljoen.
Hafeez completed his half century in the 18th over with a boundary, although it was a bit on the slower side, which put the rest of the batsmen under pressure.
The 18th over was that big one Zalmi had been searching for a while as it leaked 21 runs, with Sammy hitting Tanvir for back-to-back sixes.
Hafeez departed in what could be described as a soft dismissal, making way for Hammad Azam.
Sammy's six-laden cameo at the end made sure Zalmi finished with 151 on the board for the loss of 6 wickets.
"After we lost early wickets our plan was to get a decent total on the board," said Hafeez during the innings break. He attributed his team's struggles with the 'surprising grass on the pitch'.
Multan Sultans line-up:
Kumar Sangakkara, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard, Sohaib Maqsood, Said Badar, Sohail Tanvir, Hardus Viljoen, Mohammad Irfan, Imran Tahir, Junaid Khan.
Peshawar Zalmi line-up:
Kamran Akmal, Tamim Iqbal, Dwayne Smith, Mohammad Hafeez, Harris Sohail, Hammad Azam, Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan, Wahab Riaz, Ibtisam Sheikh, Mohammad Asghar