In-form Luke Ronchi's third half-century of the last four matches helped Islamabad United defeat Multan Sultans by 33 runs in the 25th fixture of the Pakistan Super League 2018 in Sharjah on Tuesday.
With that victory, United secured their qualification for the play-offs, whereas the Sultans' hopes for reaching the next round now depend on how Karachi Kings and Peshawar Zalmi fare in their remaining league fixtures.
After Multan Sultans won the toss and elected to field first, Islamabad's pairing of JP Duminy and Ronchi took the crease, with the latter once again in the mood, cracking six boundaries in the opening four overs.
His partner JP Duminy was a mere spectator as Ronchi punished the Sultans bowlers, taking his side to 44-0 after four overs.
By the time Duminy departed — via a schoolboy error — on the final ball of the 5th over with just six runs to his name, Ronchi had scored 38 of his team's 46 runs.
Alex Hales joined the party and struck two fours in an Imran Tahir over, which most PSL batsmen would tell, is no mean feat.
In the ninth over, Ronchi brought up his third half-century of the last four innings.
The New Zealander was finally dismissed in the 11th over when he misread an Imran Tahir googly.
The last time these two sides had met, it was Hussain Talat's unbeaten 48 that won United the game. The southpaw walked in to join Hales in the middle.
Hales had hit two 4s in compatriot Ross Whitley's previous over and he hit two more in in his second — overall 12th — only this time he dealt in 6s. At this point, United were 110-2.
Hales missed out on an on-debut half-century when Gul had him caught at cover in the 15th — at the end of which, United were 126-3.
Talat then took charge, cracking two boundaries each in the next two overs, including this pretty one over deep midwicket for a 6.
Talat's 36-run cameo came to an end in the 19th when Gul had him caught at long on.
Fahim Ashraf and Asif Ali contributed 13 and 17 runs respectively as United finished with 185-4, setting a target of 186 for the Sultans to chase,
The start to the Sultans' innings could not have been any worse as they lost Kumar Sangakkara and Saif Badar in the opening over bowled by Samit Patel.
When facing hat-trick balls, most batsmen tend to opt for defensive shots but then Sohaib Maqsood is not most batsmen. A boundary through the covers ensued.
Sultans batters soon found out that Patel just one of a two-pronged problem. His bowling partner Mohammad Sami was also excellent from the other end, conceding just seven runs in his first two overs.
The third wicket fell in the 5th over and the fourth in 6th as United planted one foot into the play-offs. The first of the twin dismissals was Ahmed Shehzad, who took 10 balls to get set before planting an easy catch into the hands of the third-man fielder. The shot was meant to go one way, it went the other as the batman went straight to the dugout.
His contribution: a paltry three runs.
Maqsood is not the kind that thrives in run chase so he soon followed Shehzad as Sultans' already slim hopes flailed mortally.
In the 10 over, a quicker Shadab Khan delivery kept low and bowled out Sultans skipper Shoaib Malik — the final nail in the coffin of Multan's hopes of somehow winning the game.
Halfway through their innings, the expansion franchise were 50-5 and needed a massive 136 runs from 60 balls with Kieron Pollard and Whiteley at the crease.
Pollard was the only Sultan batter showing some sort of resistance. He even hit a one-handed six.
His partners, however, kept on leaving him and the team in the lurch; this time Whiteley was the one to desert as Shadab picked up his second.
Pollard brought up his 50 before hitting another one-handed six. What the rest of the Sultans batters couldn't do with two limbs, the West Indian was doing with just one.
Sohail Tanvir was run out in the 16th, at the end of which the Sultans were 119-7 and a further 67 runs adrift of their target.
Then came a monstrous over for the Sultans. Bowled by newcomer Amad Butt, the 17th over saw three 6s — two by Pollard and one by Gul. The duo plundered Butt for 19 runs, giving some late hope to Sultans, who now needed 48 runs from 18 balls.
Pollard's magnificent six-laden 73-run knock came to an end in the 18th when Sami had him caught at deep square leg.
In the end, the Sultans folded for 152 runs with 5 balls still remaining in their allotted 20 overs.
Ronchi was deservedly named the man of the match.
Multan XI: KC Sangakkara, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, KA Pollard, Saif Badar, RA Whiteley, Sohail Tanvir, Imran Tahir, Mohammad Irfan, Umar Gul
Islamabad XI: AD Hales, L Ronchi, JP Duminy, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Misbah-ul-Haq, SR Patel, Shadab Khan, Amad Butt, Mohammad Sami