RAWALPINDI: Rilee Rossouw struck the fastest century of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and fired Multan Sultans to pull off the highest run chase to down hapless Peshawar Zalmi and into the playoffs.
In a bid to seal the playoff, the Sultans had a mammoth total to chase ahead of them as the former champions needed to pull off the highest-ever run chase, which they eventually did so with five balls to spare at the back of a scintillating century knock by Rossouw.
In pursuit of 243, the Sultans were off to an unwanted start; losing both their openers Mohammad Rizwan (7) and Shan Masood (5) inside three overs with just 28 runs on the scoreboard.
Following the slump, T20 specialist Kieron Pollard and Rossouw counter-attacked the Zalmi bowlers and stitched a match-defining 99-run partnership for the third wicket with both scoring quick half-centuries.
Pollard reached his fifty in just 22 deliveries after hitting three consecutive sixes to Mujeeb ur Rehman while Rossouw was even quicker as he conceded just 17 balls in the process and registered his name in the list of joint-fastest half-centuries in the league’s history.
The Zalmi then finally found a breakthrough in the 10th over when Wahab Riaz put an end to Pollard’s astonishing knock with a shorter delivery. He scored 52 in 25 deliveries, hitting four boundaries and five sixes.
The Sultans then endured another setback in quick succession as their in-form batter Tim David perished after managing to score just two and his side, consequently slipped to 148/4 in the 12th over.
Rossouw, on the other hand, continued his baton charge on the Zalmi bowlers and kept Sultans in the hunt with belligerent hitting, receiving significant support from Khushdil Shah, who scored 18 off 14.
Anwar Ali joined Rossouw after Khushdil’s dismissal and made sure the Sultans did not lose momentum in the run chase as the pair added vital 21 runs in 13 balls before Rossouw finally perished in the 19th over.
The left-handed batter top-scored for the Sultans with an astounding 51-ball 121, laced with 12 boundaries and eight sixes.
Meanwhile, Anwar, who had a forgetful outing with the ball in the first innings, held his ground firm and put on a match-winning partnership with Usama Mir, who played a crucial cameo of 11 runs in just three balls with the help of one boundary and a six.
The pair held their composure in the tense last two overs and steered their side to victory with five balls to spare.
Anwar stayed unbeaten on 24 off just eight deliveries, hitting two boundaries and a six.
Azmatullah Omarzai bagged two wickets for Zalmi but went for plenty, while Saim Ayub, Wahab, Arshad Iqbal and Mujeeb struck out a batter each.
Opting to bat first, the Zalmi batters made the most of the batting paradise of the Pindi Cricket Stadium as the former champions piled up a massive total of 242/6 in 20 overs.
Earlier, Zalmi openers Babar Azam and Saim carried on their magnificent form as the pair once again scripted a solid start for the side with both scoring brisk half-centuries.
Babar got to the milestone first in just 24 deliveries, recording his fastest fifty in the league’s history before Saim followed.
The pair once again looked comfortable trumping the record partnership of the league before Usama Mir got rid of Saim in the 12th over and handed a much-needed breakthrough to the Sultans.
The left-handed batter scored a brisk 33-ball 58, laced up five boundaries and four sixes.
Babar’s stay at the crease also remained brief after Saim’s dismissal as a short-pitch delivery by Abbas Afridi saw the end of his brilliant knock.
The Zalmi’s skipper scored 73 in just 39 balls, smashing nine boundaries and two sixes.
Zalmi then lost wickets at regular intervals but vital blitz by Mohammad Haris in the middle and Tom Kohler-Cadmore at the death powered the former champions to a massive total.
Haris struck a quickfire 35 in a mere 11 deliveries, hitting a boundary and four sixes, including three consecutive sixes to Sheldon Cottrell in the 14th over.
Kohler-Cadmore, on the other hand, was equally ruthless with his 18-ball 38 which featured four boundaries and two sixes.
Abbas led the bowling attack for the Sultans with 4/39 while Usama could pick up a wicket amid their forgetful day with the ball.