A chase of 201 went down to the wire as Multan Sultans fall one big hit short of victory against Lahore Qalandars.

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The PSL concludes where it began. A clinical Lahore Qalandars delivered a stone-cold death-bowling effort to defeat Multan Sultans by one run, precisely as they did four weeks ago. The closest PSL final in history came down to the final ball, with Sultans needing four to dethrone Qalandars. Finally, a valiant Khushdil Shah was run-out diving to complete the third at the non-end, striker’s and the Qalandars’ title defence was completed.

It all feels like a rematch; after all, these two teams met in the previous season’s championship, which produced the same result. Yet for Qalandars, who were a laughingstock for the first half of the league’s history, this is a spectacular comeback. They have now become the uncontested dominant power in the PSL, becoming the first team to retain the title.

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Yet all of that pales in comparison to the drama and lunacy of the final over, the final ball. The opening game of the season had come down to Zaman Khan bowling to Khushdil, with the Sultans needing four runs to win and falling one short. The Multan Sultans needed four today as Zaman bowled the final ball of the tournament to Khushdil. But, there came a yorker, a scuffed squeeze into the on side, a desperate rush for an additional run, and a run-out. Then there was chaos.

By the time the final two overs rolled around, Lahore Qalandars appeared to have edged Sultans out. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Zaman, and Haris Rauf have started asphyxiating Sultans with their death-bowling machine. Tim David, Kieran Pollard, and Anwar Ali all fell in the previous three overs, and with 35 required in the last 12 balls, the Sultans appeared to have run out of options.

Nevertheless, Khushdil and Abbas Afridi took advantage of Rauf’s rare faulty death over to plunder 22, setting up a dramatic finish with 13 needing off the final six balls. Sultans had nothing until the final two balls, but a hilarious pair of byes after Zaman missed the chance to run Khushdil out from three yards out ensured the danger man was on strike to pummelled the penultimate ball away for four. Yet Zaman nailed his length yet again, and Sultans fell just short.

Lahore Qalandars had won the toss and, predictably, chose to bat, with Mirza Baig flying out of the blocks. Fakhar Zaman, on the other hand, was unusually restrained, abandoning the normal flamboyance in favour of an abundance of prudence. When he top-edged one to Usama Mir, he had scored 39 runs off 34 balls, the lowest strike rate in PSL history for an innings in which he scored at least 30 runs.

Yet Usama had only just begun with the wickets. On a surface with unexpected grip and bounce, he ripped through Sam Billings’ defences in his following over, before Ahsan Hafeez was stranded in front for a golden duck. Rizwan gave Khushdil another over, and he promptly cleaned up Sikandar Raza with his first ball, leaving Lahore Qalandars reeling at 112 for 5.

David Wiese was about to charge out when he noticed Shaheen had pulled rank and was already halfway to the batting crease. He demonstrated why in a critical, momentum-shifting final few overs. He bludgeoned an undefeated 44 off 15 deliveries as Lahore Qalandars collected 85 runs in the final five overs, cementing his surprise reputation as a middle-order power-hitter.

A takedown of Ihsanullah in the 17th over was particularly remarkable, with the 24 that resulted laying the groundwork for Lahore Qalandars’ massive victory. As Sultans wilted in the face of the onslaught, he was aided by some remarkably mediocre bowling, with the difference in death bowling between the two sides proving important to the ultimate conclusion.

Yet the way Sultans began, it didn’t have to come down to the wire. Mohammad Rizwan understood that an innings of accumulation wouldn’t enough today, so he blasted four boundaries in his first seven balls to set the tone, including a chastening takedown of Shaheen in the third over, which yielded 20 runs. As Wiese uprooted Usman Khan’s stumps, Rizwan relinquished power-hitting responsibilities to Rilee Rossouw.

The South African is now PSL royalty and gladly obliged. He demonstrated his worth by taking on Zaman, attacking either side square of the wicket to smash three boundaries off the fifth over before helping Wiese plunder 16 off the next. Rauf was not spared, either, hammering his first two balls for four and six as the Sultans maintained their lead. A drive off Rashid Khan brought up a 30-ball half-century, taking the Sultans to 105 for 1 with half the innings remaining.

Rashid, on the other hand, was not to be kept down, and as one kept low to sneak past the South African’s defences, Sultan’s nerves began to fray. Rossouw didn’t enjoy the Afghan’s send-off and tension seeped back into the game. Wiese’s spectacular effort on the boundary converted what should have been six into Rizwan’s dismissal, and Qalandars were quietly bringing the asking rate back up.

David and Pollard should have been in a good position to fix that, but leaving too much for the closing overs against a bowling attack of Qalandars’ calibre had before hurt Sultans. Pollard miscued Shaheen straight up into the air before Qalandars’ captain returned to dismiss David, Anwar, and Mir all in the same over, and an asking rate that had hovered around 11 just four overs previously had risen to more over 17.

Khushdil and Afridi would come close, but in the end, Qalandars and a loyal home crowd would win by the narrowest of margins. Players from both teams knelt as pyrotechnics blazed above them. The location of the PSL trophy has been determined. After all, it was going nowhere.

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