KARACHI: Despite a record-breaking HBL Pakistan Super League partnership and a whirlwind Sharjeel Khan century, defending champions Karachi Kings came second best when they went down by five wickets against Islamabad United here at the National Stadium on Wednesday night.

For the second night running a 190-plus chase was made to look nothing but a stroll in the park. On Tuesday, Multan Sultans thrashed 193-4 but somehow Peshawar Zalmi overhauled that with one over and six wickets to spare.

And then Karachi Kings — who unsurprisingly were invited to have first use of another flat track after Imad had lost the toss — thought they had the game all but sewn up after piling up 196-3 on the back of Sharjeel’s thrilling knock as the portly left-hander savaged the Islamabad United bowling to the tune of 105 runs from 59 deliveries (nine boundaries and eight sixes) in the highest partnership for any wicket — usurping the opening stand of 157 put on by Babar Azam and Liam Livingstone for Karachi Kings versus Multan Sultans at Dubai in 2019 — as he and Babar plundered 176 in 112 balls.

Islamabad United, the only franchise thus far to lift the HBL title twice — in 2016 and 2018 — played like a team possessed and serenely reached 197-5 at the start of the final over with Alex Hales — who was part of title-annexing Kings side in 2020 — laying the foundation with a rapid 21-ball innings 46 that included eight boundaries and one six.

The impact of Hales’ batting was enough for the out-of-favour England batsman to beat Sharjeel to the man-of-the-match award and was the main reason behind his side rattling up 77 in the powerplay — comfortably the best so far in six matches of this competition. Hales also condemned seamer Aamir Yamin to the most expensive over in PSL history when he smashed 4, 6, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4 and with the fourth delivery being a no-ball, 29 runs were scored in that eventful over, which was the third of the Islamabad innings.

But it was not just Hales alone as Iftikhar Ahmed, the beleaguered Pakistan right-hander, also stood out and along with Hussain Talat (42 off 31 balls, four fours and one six) turned the tide in favour of their team. The stand of 94 in 67 balls was a decisive factor after Faheem Ashraf (25 off 15 balls) had been the fourth wicket to fall with the total on 82.

Iftikhar, who remained unbeaten with 37 balls while striking three sixes and two fours, and Asif Ali (21 off 9, two sixes and one four) were together at the end to steer Islamabad United to their ninth win in 15 fixtures against Karachi Kings.

The first half was entirely dominated by the rampant Sharjeel, who overcame a quiet start to his innings — 11 from the first 20 balls —to smash everything in his radar. None suffer more than Islamabad United captain Shadab Khan as the spinner was bludgeoned for four sixes on the trot in the ninth over. Shell-shocked and red-faced, Shadab banished himself from the bowling creases after returning figures of nine for 32 in two overs.

Sharjeel also benefited from the slice of luck. He was dropped by Hales off slow left-armer Zafar Gohar on 55 after reaching a 32-ball 50 and then holed to the same fielder on 70 off a Mohammad Wasim no-ball.

The pugnacious left-hander from Hyderabad brought up his second ton in PSL by thumping Faheem for a straight six in front of the main pavilion. Both Babar (62 off 54 balls, six fours and one six) and Sharjeel got out on successive balls — Babar was run out while Sharjeel was trapped LBW.

But their heroics were in vain as Islamabad became the only team to stay unbeaten after each side had played two matches.

Scoreboard

KARACHI KINGS:

Sharjeel Khan lbw b Hasan 105

Babar Azam run out 62

D.T. Christian not out 12

Mohammad Nabi c Zafar b Hussain 7

EXTRAS (LB-2, W-5, NB-3) 10

TOTAL (for three wkts, 20 overs) 196

FALL OF WKTS: 1-176 (Babar), 2-176 (Sharjeel), 3-196 (Nabi).

DID NOT BAT: C.A. Ingram, J. Clarke, Imad Wasim, Aamir Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Waqas Maqsood, Arshad Iqbal.

BOWLING: Hasan Ali 4-0-36-1; Faheem Ashraf 4-0-28-0 (1w); Mohammad Wasim 4-0-30-0 (1nb); Shadab Khan 2-0-32-0; Zafar Gohar 2-0-22-0 (2w); Gregory 1-0-11-0; Iftikhar Ahmed 1-0-10-0; Hussain Talat 2-0-25-1 (2nb, 2w).

ISLAMABAD UNITED:

P.D. Salt c Christian b Imad 0

A.D. Hales c sub (Qasim Akram) b Waqas 46

Shadab Khan lbw b Amir 0

Faheem Ashraf b Arshad 25

Iftikhar Ahmed not out 49

Hussain Talat lbw b Nabi 42

Asif Ali not out 21

EXTRAS (B-1, LB-3, W-9, NB-1) 14

TOTAL (for five wkts, 19.1 overs) 197

FALL OF WKTS: 1-1 (Salt), 2-13 (Shadab), 3-75 (Hales), 4-82 (Faheem), 5-176 (Hussain).

DID NOT BAT: L. Gregory, Zafar Gohar, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Wasim.

BOWLING: Imad Wasim 4-0-32-1 (2w); Mohammad Amir 4-0-44-1 (4w); Aamir Yamin 1-0-29-0 (1nb); Waqas Maqsood 2.1-0-22-1; Arshad Iqbal 3-0-30-1; Christian 1-0-10-0; Mohammad Nabi 4-0-26-1.

RESULT: Islamabad United won by five wickets.

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Rashid Riaz (Pakistan).

TV UMPIRE: R.K. Illingworth (England).

MATCH REFEREE: Ali Naqvi (Pakistan).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Alex Hales (Islamabad United).

FRIDAY’S FIXTURES: Multan Sultans vs Lahore Qalandars (3:00pm PST); Quetta Gladiators vs Peshawar Zalmi (8:00pm PST).

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2021

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