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Islamabad United book playoffs berth despite big loss.

Rizwan's half-century helped Multan canter to a six-wicket win despite a brief early stutter against a depleted United.

Multan Sultans 111 for 4 (Rizwan 51*, Dawson 3-16) beat Islamabad United 105 for 7 (Tahir 2-8, Afridi 2-21) by six wickets

There was very little riding on this game, and perhaps that shone through in the way it played out. Islamabad United, hobbling on as injuries continue to ravage them, limped to 105 in 20 overs, before an unbeaten 42-ball 51 from Mohammad Rizwan helped Multan Sultans canter to a six-wicket victory despite a brief early stutter. But for the unlikeliest of miracles United were assured progression to the last four, though the depleted state in which they eventually get there perhaps raises questions about their ability to be competitive.

United, like Quetta Gladiators, who won earlier against Karachi Kings, finish with four wins in ten, but had the cushion of a vastly superior net run rate to sneak through to the eliminator. Making half a dozen changes - goodness knows how many enforced - they were no match for a ruthless Sultans bowling line-up, who bent them to their will all innings. Besides Liam Dawson and Muhammad Musa, no Islamabad batter managed better than a run-a-ball, with Asif Afridi, Imran Tahir, and even Tim David chipping in with wickets.

Azam Khan in the middle order was United's best hope of a big total, with superstars and power hitters in short supply elsewhere. But he ended up struggling most of all, put out of his misery by a ripper of a catch at deep midwicket by Shan Masood, who can't seem to put a foot wrong in this competition. Skipper Asif Ali's wretched PSL with the bat continued, with Masood once more taking the catch at deep midwicket to burrow into the lower order. Only a devil-may-care cameo from Musa, who finished unbeaten with 26 in 21, helped his side get to three figures, setting the Sultans 106 for victory.

They needed to get there in an almost mathematically impossible 3.4 overs if United were to be eliminated at the Gladiators' expense. Instead, they got a brief scare of their own when three early wickets by Dawson reduced them to 18 for three, and Tim David fell cheaply. But a situation like this is tailor-made for Mohammad Rizwan, who was happy to steer his side towards the target. In David Willey, he had a partner who understood the situation, and shelved his big shots for a sensible, game-appropriate knocking, finishing unbeaten with 28 off 32.

It was a game that seemed to be dragging on interminably, and the Sultans stretched it out till the 18th over before finally putting United, and indeed the contest, out of its misery. There was still time for Rizwan to give his phenomenal career numbers another shot in the arm, getting to 50 with a glorious six over cover for the winnings runs. The Sultans now get ready for a likely blockbuster against the Sultans on Wednesday, with United left licking wounds both literal and metaphorical.

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