Franchise cricket peaked as they played one classic match after another in the 2024 WPL and PSL over the long second weekend of March.

Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews, and much more.

What makes great franchise cricket? The colours, the sound, the razzmatazz, they all add to the effect, but it all feels bland unless the cricket is keenly contested.

Across eight matches between March 8 and 11 on either side of the Wagah Border, the 2024 editions of the WPL and the PSL produced exactly that – cliffhangers with playoffs spots wide open.

March 8: WPL – UPW v DC

After being thrashed by Mumbai Indians, UP Warriorz had to – somewhat unfairly – play hosts Delhi Capitals the following day. Deepti Sharma (59 in 48 balls) took them to 138-8, but at 112-3 in 17 overs, Delhi were cruising. Then bizarre things happened: Sharma (4-19) completed a hat-trick, and with two to score in four balls, Delhi lost three wickets in three balls of Grace Harris to lose by a run.

At Karachi, Peshawar Zalmi beat Quetta Gladiators by 76 runs. A one-sided affair, but the weekend was just warming up there.

March 9: WPL – MI v GG | PSL – LQ v KK

Desperate to stay in the playoffs hunt, Beth Mooney (66 in 35 balls) and Dayalan Hemalatha (74 in 40) helped Gujarat Giants pile on 190-7. With 91 to score in six overs, Mumbai were as good as out of it, but Harmanpreet Kaur’s onslaught (she reached 95 not out in 48 from 20 off 21 at one stage) took them home with a ball to spare. The sprinklers turning on with two overs to spare added to the drama.

At Karachi, Lahore Qalandars posted 177-5 with half-centuries from Fakhar Zaman (54 in 35 balls) and Abdullah Shafique (55 in 39). The hosts needed six in the last three balls, but after Hassan Ali got a brace and a single, 42-year-old Shoaib Malik hit a full-toss from Zaman Khan for four.

March 10: WPL – DC v RCB | PSL – MS v IU, LQ v QG

Delhi posted 181-5 this time and in response, Royal Challengers Bangalore were left to chase 74 off the last six overs. Sophie Devine brought the target down before departing, the onus fell on Richa Ghosh after some exceptional death bowling from Shikha Pandey. Bangalore needed 12 in six balls and two in one against Jess Jonassen, and Ghosh was run out while attempting the single that would have pushed the match into the Super Over.

Usman Khan had meanwhile continued with his record-breaking season, hitting 100 not out in 50 balls as Multan Sultans amassed 228-4. But Colin Munro (84 in 40 balls) and Shadab Khan (54 in 31) kept Islamabad United in the game before Imad Wasim (30 not out in 13) hit a six and a four to ensure a last-ball win.

It was a double header, and later that night Shafique (59 not out in 39 balls) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (55 in 34) took Lahore to 166-4. Shaheen needed to defend 13 in four balls, but Saud Shakeel hit two fours and got a single before Mohammad Wasim Jr hit a six to put Quetta Gladiators in the playoffs and send QG coach Viv Richards wild.

March 11: WPL – UPW v GG | PSL – PZ v KK

The match seemed over after Laura Wolvaardt (43 in 30 balls) and Mooney (74 in 52) took Gujarat to 152-8 and Shabnam Shakil (3-11) left UP reeling at 35-5 after seven overs. But UP did not lose another wicket as Sharma (88 not out in 50 balls) and Poonam Khemnar (36 not out in 36) brought the target down to 10 in two balls. Meghna Singh then denied them a second consecutive heist.

At Karachi, Babar Azam (51 in 46 balls) took Peshawar to 147-6, but Tim Seifert (41 in 30 balls) and Irfan Khan (39 not out in 26) kept the hosts in the game. Already out of the playoffs, Karachi needed four off Aamer Jamal’s last ball: they could only sneak a leg-bye, and Peshawar were guaranteed a Qualifier spot.