Shaheen Shah Afridi showed why he is rated so highly in Pakistan’s cricketing circles as he picked up five wickets for just four runs to help Lahore Qalandars notch their first victory of the Pakistan Super League 2018 in Sharjah on Friday.
After the Sultans won the toss and opted to bat first, the pairing of Kumar Sangakkara and Ahmed Shehzad took the crease.
With nothing having worked for the Qalandars so far in the tournament, captain Brendon McCullum rolled the dice once again, this time opening the bowling with another part-time off-spinner Agha Salman.
Whatever the plan was it didn't work as the Sultans' opening pair did pretty much what they wanted in the first 8 overs, giving their side an opening stand of 61, of which 45 were contributed by the Sri Lankan.
Sangakkara fell on the first ball of the 9th over, following which the in-form Sohaib Maqsood joined Shehzad at the crease.
By the end of 12 overs, the Sultans had 86 runs with nine wickets in the bank. Their one concern though was their slow run rate but that can happen with Shehzad in the middle.
The solitary six of Shehzad's innings came when he danced down the track and gave his everything, forging the impression that the ball was going to land on the stands if not outside the stadium.
It barely cleared the long-off boundary.
That dilemma of the Sultans' was solved in the 13th over when the Shehzad, having made 32 at less than a run-a-ball ratio, was removed by Mitchell McClenaghan.
The 14th over finally saw the introduction of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who gave away just two runs on his first six balls, piling the pressure on the Sultan batters.
And that pressure materialised into a wicket the next over when the dangerous Maqsood, who has reclaimed the 'dangerous' tag for the past couple innings, completely misread the line of a Sunil Narine delivery and got bowled.
In the 16th over, the young Afridi came of age, removing Shoaib Malik, Ross Whiteley and Saif Badar in a span of four balls and only just missing out on a hat-trick.
By the end of his over, the Sultans were 99-6 and in a position their opponents know a bit too much about.
The 17-year-old Afridi, who was consistently hitting 140kmph and was almost unplayable, picked up two more wickets, to finish with unreal figures of 5-4 in 3.4 overs. Yes, you read that right! The lanky left-armer gave away just four runs and picked up five wickets.
Even the original Afridi couldn't help take notice of his teenage namesake.
The Sultans, who not so long ago were 91-1, eventually skittled out for just 114, losing nine wickets for the addition of just 23 runs.
With such a modest target to chase, the Qalandars should've coasted to their target and that's how it seemed early on. The operating word being 'seemed' here.
Anton Devcich and Fakhar Zaman hit several boundaries of their own before the former departed in 3rd over and the latter in 4th.
One-down batsman Salman joined the two openers back in the dugout in the fifth, leaving Gulraiz Sadaf and McCullum in the middle. A reminder: nothing is ever easy with the Qalandars.
They could've easily managed to mess this up as well had it not been for the generous Saif Badar, who dropped McCullum not once but twice.
Halfway through their innings, the Qalandars were 67-3 and 48 runs adrift of their target.
Badar, just 19, however, partially atoned for his errors by removing Sadaf in his first over and giving away just four runs.
In the end, McCullum and Sohail Akhtar saw their side over the line.
With that, the Qalandars snapped their eight-match losing streak dating back to last year's tournament.
Lahore XI: Fakhar Zaman, Anton Devcich, Agha Salman, Gulraiz Sadaf(wK), Brendon McCullum(capt.), Sohail Akhtar, Sunil Narine, Sohail Khan, Mitchell McClenaghan, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Afridi
Multan XI: Kumar Sangakkara(wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik(capt), Ross Whiteley, Kieron Pollard, Saif Badar, Sohail Tanvir, Imran Tahir, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan