Disjointed Karachi Kings doing the job
As a general rule, batting out two maidens to start an innings is not the best approach to winning cricket matches. For T20s, it's almost a non-starter. That's 10% of your innings gone in dot balls upfront. This is a format of cricketing austerity, where what you do with every single last ball has to be accounted for. Of the four times it had happened before this game (for which games ESPNcricinfo has ball-by-ball records) only once had the team batting out the maidens gone on to win.
But then to fall apart over the last ten balls of the innings, losing five wickets for four runs: What's worse? Losing five wickets in those ten balls, or just scoring four runs in those ten balls? And to leave two balls unused at the end - in all that's 24 balls out of an innings of 120 that have gone to complete waste.
Karachi Kings did all of this. They also dropped their opponent's opener, who turned out to be the highest scorer, and still won by 44 runs, having bowled them out with nearly five overs to spare. Islamabad United were truly abject with the bat, but the nature of this win spoke more of Karachi than it did of them.
It has been that kind of campaign for Karachi. They have individuals who we can say make for a decent enough side, or at least one that can compete. Mohammad Amir is one. Babar Azam is the brightest thing in Pakistani batting and just maybe is beginning to show signs that he could get the hang of this format. Usama Mir is one of the league's success stories. Ravi Bopara was last year's man of the tournament. Shoaib Malik led one of the most successful T20 sides known to cricket. Kieron Pollard needs no introduction. Given the kind of Test bowler that he is - fuller lengths, not quick, reliant on swing - Sohail Khan is a better T20 bowler than you might at first think. And Imad Wasim is hot property right now.
But here's the strange thing. Of all the franchises in the league, they feel least like a team, or at least a team with some kind of identity. Lahore Qalandars were abysmal last year, but with Brendon McCullum leading them this time, they had all clearly bought into the way he wanted them to play. It mattered that the product was a dud in these conditions, but it also mattered that you could identify Lahore through it, come boom, come bust.
Peshawar Zalmi were a brand before they even actually came into being. The totemic Shahid Afridi helped, but even Darren Sammy has come to represent something of Zalmi, and likewise Zalmi some of him. Breezing through the league and choking in the playoffs might be their thing but at least they have a thing.
Islamabad United are a Misbah side through and through, in their successes and their foibles. They were, until tonight, the defending champions and they had some of the sympathy vote this season, having lost Andre Russell and Sharjeel Khan.
Quetta have Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Moin Khan, and are led by the man to soon be - most likely - Pakistan's captain in all three formats. And they represent the most continually neglected province in the land. It would be difficult to not create something endearing and distinct out of that mix.
Karachi? What are they, other than a loose collection of players, gathered together for, well, what purpose? They were a mess last year, and this time, for a while, looked to be going the same way. They still look more wrong than right. They have persisted with Chris Gayle for longer than has been sensible; this year, as a spectacle, he has looked and felt like that one tour too many undertaken by the Rolling Stones.
There is, what really should be, a fatal sameness in the strike rates of the meat of their batting. Babar is developing, but he, Sangakkara, Malik and Bopara have strike rates ranging from 100 to 122 this season. Pollard and especially Imad have not faced as many balls as men with their striking capabilities should; the latter has played 43 deliveries in seven innings. They haven't needed him as much but Bopara has bowled only twice in nine matches - this the man who was their highest wicket-taker last season. They lost a promising young mystery spinner to a back injury two games into the season.
Here they are though, the form side among those left, and the only one now to have won three games in a row this season. Collect enough good players and at least the chances of good things happening rise. Pollard has won them one - what may be the decisive one that turned their campaign, against Lahore, with two sixes off the last two balls; even Gayle came good in another; they have both the tournament's top-scorer and top wicket-taker so far; and the bowling is rounded, with right-arm fast, left-arm fast, a legspinner and a left-arm spinner.
They may not look like a team, but all it takes is one win and then it doesn't matter what they look like, it only matters that they keep finding ways to win. As Imad said: "This kind of win and the way we beat Lahore, that really lifts the game and team spirit. If you win a match like this, your morale really gets high. The way we won, the combination is really good now."
Not looking like a team, losing games, doing things wrong but then coming good at just the right time? Sounds familiar doesn't it?
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo