Islamabad United broke Lahore Qalandars' hearts when they edged out the struggling franchise following a super over in the 12th fixture of the Pakistan Super League 2018 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The Qalandars, having won the toss and decided to field first, handed debut to Salman Irshad — a rare and exciting fast bowler out of Kashmir. The equally promising Shaheen Shah Afridi made way for him.
Surprisingly, captain Brendon McCullum decided to give the new ball to Fakhar Zaman, who is known for opening the batting rather than bowling.
The gamble paid off almost instantly as Zaman bowled out Luke Ronchi on the second ball and bowled an excellent opening over — a sign that the conditions were going to favour the bowlers even more than they generally have in the PSL.
That exactly turned out to be the case as by 5 overs United had just 19 runs on the board and had also lost Sahibzada Farhan as well.
Debutant Irshad proved why he is rated so highly by removing United's veteran captain Misbah ul Haq (4) with the first ball of his PSL career.
The next few hours saw very few runs as JP Duminy and Sumit Patel struggled to get going. By the end of the 10th over there were just 40 runs on the board for the loss of three wickets.
Yasir Shah removed Patel in the 12th over as pressure piled on the capital city side.
In the same over, Duminy found a rare moment of joy when he sent a Shah delivery over extra cover for the game's first maximum. Islamabad were 52/4 until that point.
Shah had his revenge and then some in his next over, removing both Asif Ali and Duminy as Lahore, for the first time in the tournament, were in the front seat.
While Shah picked three wickets for 20 runs in his four overs, Sunil Narine, from the other end, was equally brilliant, albeit in a different manner. The West Indian went wicketless but gave away just 10 runs in his quota of overs. By the end of 15th over, United were 73-6 and struggling mightily.
Andre Russell and Faheem Ashraf departed in the excellent 19th over bowled by Sohail Khan as Islamabad hopes of putting together even a modestly defendable total faded.
Nothing's ever easy with Umar Akmal and so wasn't this catch on the penultimate ball of the innings.
In the end, United finished with 121-9 in their allotted 20 overs.
McCullum's first gamble of the day had paid off handsomely but his second to send Akmal to open the innings backfired. The much-maligned batsman copped back-to-back Patel deliveries on the pad, the second of which saw him take a review on an lbw appeal and be proven wrong.
The very next ball, Patel had Zaman trapped in front of wickets too as the Qalandars were back in a familiar position: two down with just four runs on the board after one over.
The gravity of the situation was reflected in the fact that captain McCullum chose not to wear a helmet when he took the crease.
The skipper and Agha Salman stopped the leak of wickets, with the latter also hitting some cracking boundaries as the Qalandars were 31-2 with one quarter of their overs gone.
McCullum, for once, played the anchorman role and allowed Salman — a Lahore born and bred — to do the hitting. The youngster played some delightful strokes in his 35-ball 48 that brought the Qalandars back into the game.
In one particular Shadab Khan over, Salman hit back-to-back sixes.
But like all good things, Salman's innings came to an end as well; he was dismissed by a pumped up Mohammad Sami.
Sami struck again — this time removing Dinesh Ramdin — as at 81-4 the Qalandars' demons threatened a comeback.
Sohail Akhtar, Narine, Sohail Khan and Shah departed quickly as a match the Qalandars should've won by then went down to the wire.
Mind you, some of the catches taken during the four-wicket collapse were absolutely unbelievable.
McCullum though stayed alive and so did the Qalandars' hopes of securing their first win of PSL 2018.
The Qalandars needed seven off the final over. Following a dot ball, McCullum perished too as the Qalandars' hopes faded once again.
With all the pressure on rookie Irshad's shoulders, he did the unthinkable, hitting a six off Sami's ball. But with scores tied, more drama ensued, as Sami had Irshad caught. The Qalandars were all out as the match was tied and a super over was required to decided the winner.
McCullum hit a six off the first Sami delivery but was caught on the second. Both United and the Qalandars fans must have felt a bit queasy when the woefully out-of-form Akmal walked in. A heave and a dot ball later, Akmal's mishit sailed over the third man fence.
In the end, the Qalandars scored 15 off their Super Over, setting a 16-run target for United.
Following a single, McCullum dropped a difficult catch of Asif Ali at the boundary with the ball sailing over the boundary after escaping the Kiwi veteran's grasp.
Andre Russell hit a boundary, leaving United in need of three runs for win off the final ball. The final Mustafizur Rahman ball was dispatched for six as United won via the one-over eliminator and the Qalandars lost their fourth straight game of the tournament.
Here's the final ball:
Islamabad: Luke Ronchi, Shahzada Farhan, JP Duminy, Misbah ul Haq, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Andre Russell, Mohammad Sami, Samit Patel.
Lahore: Brendon McCullum, Fakhar Zaman, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Agha Salman, Sohail Akhtar, Yasir Shah, Mustafizur Rahman, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal, Salman Irshad.