Hazratullah Zazai continued his sparkling run of form to help guide Peshawar Zalmi into the final of the HBL Pakistan Super League at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
The Afghan opener struck 66 from 44 balls to set up an eight-wicket win over Islamabad United, and send Peshawar through to Thursday's final against Multan Sultans.
It was the burly left-hander’s third half-century in the four innings he has had since debuting for Peshawar as a replacement player, having been signed up when the competition relocated to Abu Dhabi this month.
He was dismissed shortly before victory was sealed, via a 10-ball cameo worth 32 not out by Shoaib Malik, as Peshawar eased into their fourth final in the sixth season of PSL.
A second defeat in two nights felt harsh on an Islamabad side who had been the outstanding side in the league phase of this competition, having won eight of their 10 matches.
In truth, though, they were soundly beaten. The fact they pushed the game as far as they did was largely thanks to Hasan Ali and his freewheeling late-overs hitting.
Islamabad were 110-8 in the 16th over before Hasan had faced a ball. Yet they ended on 174-9 after their premier fast bowler blazed 45 in 16 balls from No 9 in the batting order.
Islamabad’s innings was bookended by drama. It ended with Hasan’s heroics, but had started with a stroke of ill fortune when the two-time champions lost Usman Khawaja.
Khawaja’s form has been so great over recent days, opposition players might have feared their best chance of dismissal was a run out.
Peshawar achieved it in the most fortunate circumstances off the fifth ball of the match.
Colin Munro, Khawaja’s opening partner, blazed a drive back at the bowler. Shoaib Malik stuck out a leg. The ball clipped the top of his boot, then crashed into the stumps, with Khawaja short of his ground.
Although Munro made 44 from 29 balls, Islamabad’s effort with the bat was a limp one, at least until the introduction of Hasan, whose effort helped contribute 64 runs from the last four overs.
When the sides turned around, though, he was over excited. He overstepped with the first two balls of the Islamabad reply. By the time Kamran Akmal hit the first legal delivery for four, the score read 11 for none off one ball.
Although the over ended with him bowling Akmal, that was the last of Islamabad’s joy for too long.
Shorty after, Hazratullah was dropped on seven by Mohammed Akhlaq, the wicketkeeper, off Hasan’s bowling.
It proved seminal, as Hazratullah and Jonathan Wells, the debuting Australian, put on 126 in the next 13 and a half overs to set their side on the path to victory.