Karachiites' hopes of watching their team contest the Pakistan Super League 2018 final at the National Stadium were dashed after their beloved Karachi Kings lost out to Peshawar Zalmi by 12 runs in their Eliminator match in Lahore on Wednesday.
The defeat at the Gaddafi Stadium meant the Kings were knocked out of the T20 tournament, whereas Zalmi qualified for their second straight final and will get to defend their title against Islamabad United in Karachi this Sunday.
The match's start was delayed for more than an hour due to overnight rain and a wet outfield. But the ground staff worked diligently to make sure the play was possible. The delay, however, meant that the all-important encounter was reduced to 16 overs per side.
When the match finally began, Zalmi, who were put into bat first, sent out Kamran Akmal and Andre Fletcher to open their innings, whereas Mohammad Amir and Usman Shinwari shared the new ball for the port city side.
The opening over was quiet before Akmal livened things up in the second, hitting a 6 and a 4 off of Shinwari.
It was Fletcher's turn to do the same in the 4th over, although his 6 was a mishit and could've landed anywhere.
In the 5th over, Akmal demonstrated to his West Indian partner how to hit clean 6s.
He plundered Shinwari for 25 runs in that over, taking his side to 54-0. Zalmi were officially off to a flying start.
Fletcher showed he was a quick learner, hitting three boundaries in Ravi Bopara's first and the innings' sixth over.
With nothing working, Amir tossed the ball to leg-spinner Usama Mir, hoping for a Mir-acle. It didn't work; Akmal smacked three more boundaries, bringing up the fastest half-century ever scored in PSL history. It took him just 17 balls this time.
Akmal, who has found an extra couple of gears in PSL 2018, smacked two more in Danish Aziz's first and innings' 9th.
The Kings finally found some joy in the 10th over when Bopara removed both the openers. Before sauntering back to the dugout, Akmal hit the Brit for another.
Here's that eventful over:
After 10 overs, Zalmi were 120-2, with Mohammad Hafeez and Liam Dawson, who by the way had hit a 6 the first ball he faced, in the middle .
With just 6 overs left to play, Zalmi batters were taking added risk.
It paid off sometimes:
It did not the other.
At this point, Zalmi had lost three wickets — all picked up by Bopara.
Shinwari had been decent in death overs in PSL 2018 with his yorkers. He targeted Darren Sammy's legs on the opening ball of 14th over, making it clear what his strategy was going to be.
After missing the opening ball, Sammy found a way, digging Shinwari's full-length ball and sending it over cow corner.
Zalmi's 150 was up in that same over before Dawson fell prey to Shinwari.
Captain Amir was one of the few Karachi bowlers who had bowled well on the night. He had been stingy in the 13th and again gave away just 6 runs in the 15th, finishing with figures of 4-0-16-0.
Three wickets fell in the final over bowled by Saad Nasim but Zalmi managed to scored 11 off it, finishing with 170-7 in their allotted 16 overs.
With a mammoth total to chase, the Kings started off brightly as Joe Denly hit a trio of 4s in the opening over bowled by Hasan Ali.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was also in attendance.
It was either the chief justice's gaze or the pressure of the situation that got to Denly's partner Mukhtar Ahmed; he attempted an ugly hoick in the second over and got out.
Babar Azam, who has had a terrific PSL 2018, walked in. After Denly hit a 6 in the 4th over, Azam smacked back-to-back boundaries in the 5th — at the end of which the Kings were 37-1.
Their run rate was decent but not nearly good enough to help them score the 134 further runs they needed off just 66 balls.
The Denly-Azam carried on for the next three overs, mixing boundaries with binaries and helping their side to 69-1 after 8 overs.
Two action-free overs piled up pressure on Karachi duo whose side needed a massive 89 runs from the final 6 overs to make the final.
The 11th and 12th over saw a couple of boundaries but a couple was not good enough at that stage. Karachi needed many boundaries every over but Denly and Azam just couldn't catch up to the rocketing run rate.
Both the batters brought up their half-centuries in the 12th over but the gargantuan task of getting their team over the distant line had yet to be accomplished.
Azam's 45-ball 63-run innings came to an end in the penultimate over.
Denly (unbeaten 79 off 46 balls) tried with all his might but could not get the job done. The Kings fell 12 runs short and were knocked out of PSL 2018.
Akmal was named the man of the match for his blistering innings.
Road to Eliminator 2
The Kings already spurned a chance to directly qualify for the final after losing to Islamabad United in a lop-sided qualifier last weekend.
Zalmi, meanwhile, survived by the skin of their teeth last night, defeating Quetta Gladiators by just one run in the first Eliminator.
Pacer Mohammad Amir led the Kings as Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi were both out injured and Eoin Morgan didn't travel to Pakistan.
The Kings drafted in Mukhtar Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar and Danish Aziz into their squads as covers for the missing.
Karachi Kings: Denly, Mukhtar, Babar Azam, Colin Ingram, Bopara, Rizwan, Mir, Usman Shinwari, Mills, Amir, Aziz
Peshawar Zalmi: Kamran (wk), Fletcher, Hafeez, Nasim, Sammy (capt), Dawson, Jordan, Asif, Wahab, Hasan Ali, Sameen Gul