KARACHI: Karachi Kings eventually halted their hunt for the Pakistan Super League (PSL)
trophy when they outgunned arch-rivals Lahore Qalandars by five wickets at the National Stadium here on Tuesday night to crown themselves as the fifth edition’s champions.
Babar Azam played a decisive role in guiding Karachi over the line with eight deliveries to spare as the Pakistan captain anchored a tricky chase of 135 with yet another masterly display.
Rated among the top batsmen in world cricket, Babar proved there is no substitute for a player of his stature while he calmly nullified whatever the Lahore bowlers threw at him. He scored an undefeated 63 from 49 balls. But it was the Karachi captain Imad Wasim who had the satisfaction of finishing the match with a lovely cover-driven boundary off Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Babar Azam steers Kings to victory with a scintillating knock of 63 off 49 balls
The first final to be staged behind closed doors — without spectators on hand to cheer on their heroes owing to the Covid-19 pandemic — completely lacked the buzz and excitement which it deserved given the pre-match hype. The game finally brought a split tournament to an anti-climatic conclusion following the completion of the 30-match preliminary phase on March 15.
After winning the toss, Sohail Akhtar reckoned the best way to put Karachi under pressure was to get a decent total on the board. But the Qalandars didn’t gauge as to how the track would behave. The end result of his decision was the Qalandars earning the dubious record of mustering not only the smallest total of team batting first in a final — when they limped to 134-7 — but also the lowest of the fifth edition, usurping 136-6 made by Islamabad United, also against Karachi Kings, at the same venue on March 14.
Their batsmen never found the fluency to free their arms on a sluggish pitch — which was used for the second time in three days — that allowed the Karachi bowlers to keep the scoring rate under check. The first 50 runs came off 45 balls and the three-figure arrived only at the start of the 17th over (97 balls to be exact).
The left-handed pair of Tamim Iqbal and Fakhar Zaman found the going arduous upfront and ate up as many as 61 deliveries before both got dismissed in the same over to the same bowler-fielder combination of Umaid Asif and Iftikhar Ahmed.
Tamim Iqbal — the top-scorer in the innings with 35 from 38 balls while striking four fours and a six off Iftikhar — provided Iftikhar catching practice inside the midwicket boundary. Iftikhar then held a well-judged in almost the same region to see off Fakhar for a 24-ball 27 that included four boundaries.
The Qalandars suffered another huge setback when the experienced Mohammad Hafeez — who hit up an unbeaten 74 in the first Eliminator against Peshawar Zalmi on Saturday — tried to clear the offside field when Imad brought himself on from the Pavilion End but only succeeded in giving Babar a simple opportunity at mid-off.
The departure of Hafeez (two off four balls) meant the Qalandars had lost three wickets in seven balls for only two runs. And whoever attempted to accelerate fell on the wayside one after the other, and remarkably enough all seven batsmen dismissed were caught.
Lahore’s hopes of getting quick runs in the death overs never materialised and their hero of Eliminator 2 David Wiese was restricted to only run-a-ball 14, while the big-hitting Australian wicket-keeper/batsman Ben Dunk just couldn’t find gaps as the left-hander struck just a solitary boundary in a 14-ball 11.
The selection of Umaid Asif over Wayne Parnell was a masterstroke from interim Karachi Kings head coach Wasim Akram as the 36-year-old seamer conceded only 18 runs from his four overs for two wickets. Left-armer Waqas Maqsood also returned identical figures, while emerging paceman Arshad Iqbal also picked a brace, but Mohammad Amir went wickless in four overs.
In the run chase, Lahore did pick up early wickets — including that of Sharjeel Khan, who also was in the PSL title-winning side of Islamabad United in the inaugural season in 2016 — at the start but Babar and Chadwick Walton (22) put Karachi back on track as they put on 61 in 50 balls.
Babar, who adorned his match-winning innings with seven elegant boundaries, bagged three of the five awards when he was declared man-of-the-match, player-of-the-tournament and the best batsman of the PSL V after amassing 473 runs from 11 innings at 59.12 with his last half-century being his fifth of the competition.
The best bowler went to Shaheen (17 wickets in 12 matches at 19.52) while Fakhar won the best fielder prize for taking 10 catches, also from 12 games.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020