KARACHI: Karachi Kings heaved a sigh of relief in the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi late on Thursday night as they edged past old foes Lahore Qalandars by a slender margin of seven runs to bring their playoff aspirations back on track.
In a game of great significance for the defending champions, they had to regroup following their horrendous defeat to Peshawar Zalmi on Tuesday; they needed inspiration, which came from an unlikely source in the shape of an unknown teenager from Afghanistan as Noor Ahmed Lakanwal — aged just 16 years and 166 days — dismissed Ben Dunk and Mohammad Hafeez to derail Lahore’s chase of 177 in a brilliant spell of unorthodox left-arm spin.
Lahore, however, then changed the script dramatically when Tim David (34 off 14 balls, three sixes) and James Faulkner (33 off 18, three sixes)) thrashed 58 runs in 25 balls to rekindle some hopes in their camp.
The result still leaves Karachi battling in a four-way tie to grab three remaining places for next week’s playoffs. With currently second-placed Peshawar Zalmi already completing their league-round schedule, the games involving Karachi, Lahore and Multan Sultans would decide which sides go through.
Both these arch-rivals have been repeatedly beset by batting deficiencies on recent form with signs of little improvement, particularly from Karachi’s perspective. Their bowling had been up and down throughout the campaign, but Noor bowled with wonderful control to revive the champions once again after Lahore launched their innings in pursuit of 177 aggressively through Fakhar Zaman’s brace of leg-side sixes against the left-arm spin of Karachi skipper Imad Wasim.
The Lahore innings then lost direction until David and Faulkner came together to give Karachi a mighty scare.
On the very same pitch where earlier in the evening Islamabad United smashed a colossal 247-2 and Peshawar Zalmi almost challenged that PSL record team total by making 232-6 — with those two teams combining for the tournament’s highest ever match aggregate of 479 — Karachi struggled to find the range of power-hitting, which is the hallmark of T20 cricket.
Instead, they just managed to put the ball beyond or over the fence 21 times — 14 fours and only seven sixes.
Sharjeel Khan, the big-hitting opener, flattered to deceive for the fourth game in a row when the left-hander only scored 13 before pulling Shaheen Shah Afridi straight down the lap of Tim David on the deep square leg boundary.
Lahore Qalandars were once again found wanting in their use of the Decision Review System (DRS) and wasting both reviews — against Sharjeel and Martin Guptill —well within the Powerplay due to injudiciousness on the part of captain Sohail Akhtar, who was coaxed by his bowlers, Shaheen and James Faulkner.
Babar Azam played one of least fluent knocks by his standards. The ace batsman, who was struck a painful blow during Karachi’s defeat to Peshawar Zalmi earlier this week, survived several close calls, and yet posted another half century — his third in four innings of this leg — as the right-hander top-scored with 54 off 44 deliveries (seven boundaries). He struggled to get Rashid Khan away as the classy Afghan leg spinner maintained good line and length while varying his pace to create doubts in the batsman’s mind.
Martin Guptill, Karachi’s high-profile signing, has had a lean run on his PSL debut with meagre scores of 11, 6 and 4. But the New Zealander showed signs of regaining form by playing his typical belligerent game. The 34-year-old right-hander cracked three sixes and two fours on his way to a 30-ball 43.
Ahmed Daniyal delivered a fine delivery which dipped in sharply to force an inside edge which hit the stumps.
Babar and Guptill were involved in the best partnership of the match, putting on 88 in 62 balls for the second wicket. After they went, Imad used the long handle to good effect in a 19-ball 30 despite taking a blow on the helmet.
Scores in brief
KARACHI KINGS 176-5 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 54, M.J. Guptill 43, Imad Wasim 30 not out, Danish Aziz 16 not out, Sharjeel Khan 13; Rashid Khan 2-25, Mohammad Hafeez 1-4, Ahmed Daniyal 1-34, Shaheen Shah Afridi 1-41);
LAHORE QALANDARS 169-7 in 20 overs (Mohammad Hafeez 35, T.H. David 34, J.P. Faulkner 33, Sohail Akhtar 21, Fakhar Zaman 19, Rashid Khan 11 not out; Noor Ahmed 2-19, Mohammad Ilyas 2-41, Abbas Afridi 1-29, Imad Wasim 1-31).
(Tabulated under, played, won, lost, tied, no-result, points, net run-rate):
Islamabad United 9 7 2 0 0 14 +0.945
Peshawar Zalmi 10 5 5 0 0 10 +0.586
Lahore Qalandars 9 5 4 0 0 10 -0.202
Multan Sultans 8 4 4 0 0 8 +0.836
Karachi Kings 9 4 5 0 0 8 -0.212
Quetta Gladiators 9 2 7 0 0 4 -1.913
*updated after Karachi Kings vs Lahore Qalandars fixture on Thursday night.