The Pakistan Super League (PSL) has made a name for itself as a tournament of close finishes and the final of the eighth edition on Saturday was fit to crown the champion of any trophy.
The tournament came down to one delivery and in the end, Zaman Khan held his nerve and Lahore Qalandars made history to become the first team to successfully defend their PSL title.
History was certain to be made before even a ball was bowled though as Lahore skipper Shaheen Shah Afridi and Multan captain Muhammad Rizwan vied to become the first captain to lift the PSL trophy twice.
Afridi contributed with both bat and ball to ensure he is yet to face elimination as captain, a testament to his leadership and individual ability as well as Lahore’s think tank that surrounded the world’s premium left-arm pacer with a formidable support cast.
In the end, the season boiled down to the final delivery as Zaman defended 13 in the final over and three off the final delivery as Lahore won by one run — the league, the tournament, and the match summed up in chaotic scenes as Multan batsmen scrambled for three and 11 Lahore fielders scurried around to run them out as the panicked screams of a packed Gaddafi Stadium echoed through all of Lahore.
It seemed like the toss had taken place eons ago by the time the match finished, but Afridi’s decision to bat first seemed justified as Lahore had gotten off to a solid start.
Lahore’s batting had been overly reliant on Fakhar Zaman’s runs during the tournament and it looked like there would be another batting collapse once Fakhar was dismissed by leg-spinner Usama Mir in the 12th over for 39.
Rizwan had held back Mir until the 12th over, weary of the ball turning back into the hitting arc of the left-handed Fakhar.
That Mir dismissed Fakhar with his first delivery against him, a rank long-hop at that, showed why the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Lahore crumbled from 95-1 to 112-5 as they lost three wickets in four deliveries, spinners Mir and Khushdil Shah wreaking havoc in Lahore’s middle order.
Mir’s 3-24 in three overs somewhat justified Rizwan’s decision to hold him back but it also prevented the leggie from having enough to bowl his fourth over before the innings reached the slog overs.
And it was in the slog overs that Lahore took the game away from Multan. The Multan bowlers lost the plot and in the chaos, Afridi feasted.
The left-hander smashed 44 off only 15 deliveries as Lahore scored 85 in the final over.
A raucous partisan Gaddafi echoed with chants of “Afridi, Afridi, Afridi” and the world suddenly seemed 20 years younger.
Abdullah Shafique’s knock should also not be discounted and his 65 off 40 held the innings together.
Lahore’s bowling attack was easily the tournament’s finest, and it was always going to be an uphill task for Multan to chase down 201, but if any team could do it then it was Rizwan’s men.
Rizwan and Rilee Rossouw finished as the tournament’s highest and third-highest scorers with 550 and 453 runs respectively, and the duo combined to deadly effect once again.
They were threatening to take the game away from Lahore with the score at 105-1 before Rashid Khan did what he does to dismiss Rossouw for 52 off 32.
The South African chopped on a Rashid delivery that kept low and was not overly pleased with the celebration he received from the leg-spinner.
Rashid then repeated the trick once again in the next over, dismissing Rizwan for 34 off 22 deliveries as David Wiese took a smart catch on the boundary.
Afridi had been smashed all over in his first two overs but came back superbly to claim four wickets in two overs to nullify Multan’s destructive middle order.
Abbas Afridi’s incredible 17-run cameo set the stage for a grand finale, but Zaman held his nerve to make Shaheen the league’s most successful captain.
The author is a freelance journalist