ABU DHABI: Peshawar Zalmi’s Hazratullah Zazai goes on the offensive during his whirlwind half-century against Karachi Kings in the HBL Pakistan Super League fixture at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.—Courtesy PCB
ABU DHABI: Peshawar Zalmi’s Hazratullah Zazai goes on the offensive during his whirlwind half-century against Karachi Kings in the HBL Pakistan Super League fixture at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.—Courtesy PCB

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi handed Karachi Kings a demoralising six-wicket defeat in the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 encounter at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night after restricting the holders to their lowest-ever team score.

From the outset, Karachi had no hope of stopping Peshawar from sealing a deserved berth in the playoffs while raising prospects of finishing among the top two teams — who will straightaway clash in the Qualifier with the losers still remaining in contention for the final — as they moved into second spot behind Islamabad United.

Karachi are in a deep hole and must win both their fixtures to stay in the running to defend their crown which seems to be slipping away from them as they fall behind Multan Sultans in fifth place on net run-rate.

Hazratullah Zazai made a sensational entry into PSL. The 23-year-old Afghan left-hander, who has to his credit the second highest individual score in Twenty20 Internationals — an unbeaten 162 off 62 balls against Ireland in early 2019 — plundered 63 off just 26 balls (eight fours and four sixes) as Peshawar overhauled Karachi’s score of 108-9 in the ninth over.

Player-of-the-match Zazai equalled the record of making the quickest half-century in the PSL, held by his Peshawar team-mate Kamran Akmal (17 balls) but departed as Karachi captain Imad Wasim came on to take two wickets in three deliveries when it was already too late.

Everything fell apart for Karachi the moment their talisman Babar Azam took a sickening blow on his left foot on the only ball faced as the ace batter was found dead in front of the stumps by a searing delivery from Peshawar skipper Wahab Riaz.

With Babar gone, the champions held high hopes for Sharjeel Khan bailing them out of trouble. But this never materialised. The swashbuckling opener threw away the chance of contributing a substantial knock to a dismal scorecard, and despite getting his eye in, he perished in typical style by holing out to deep midwicket when Wahab banged in one short at great pace.

Sharjeel made just 25 (24 balls), but he was not alone guilty of letting down his team. Sameen Gul marked his first appearance in the PSL for two years, grabbed two in two by quickly sending back Martin Guptill (4) and Chadwick Walton in the third over following the departure of Babar.

Najibullah Zadran (17 off 27) and captain Imad Wasim (19 off 31) stitched together the highest partnership — 30 for the fifth wicket — of the first-half action but it was not until upcoming all-rounder Abbas Afridi arrived that Karachi eventually reached three figures. Abbas, a 20-year-old from Fata, showed immense promise as a future Pakistan right-handed batter, by crunching three sixes and one fours in an unbeaten 27 off 18 deliveries.

But Abbas’ heroics were still not enough to prevent Karachi registering their smallest total in a completed 20-over stint in the PSL. Tuesday’s 108-9 fell one short of their previous team tally, which was ironically against the same opponents at Sharjah in February 2019.

At one stage, Karachi batsmen didn’t find any boundary for as many as 49 deliveries before Abbas broke the painful sequence by depositing Wahab high, wide and handsome for a glorious six over the midwicket region.

Apart from Sameen, 22-year-old Abrar Ahmed returned to topflight T20 action after a lapse of three years and eight months by snaring his first three wickets in the format as the bespectacled leg-spinner from Peshawar had the Karachi side in strife with a magical spell of 3-14 in four overs and the player-of-the-match prize.

Current standings
(Tabulated under, played, won, lost, tied, no-result, points, net run-rate):
Islamabad United 8 6 2 0 0 12 +0.932
Peshawar Zalmi 9 5 4 0 0 10 +0.726
Lahore Qalandars 8 5 3 0 0 10 -0.183
Multan Sultans 7 3 4 0 0 6 +0.153
Karachi Kings 8 3 5 0 0 6 -0.288
Quetta Gladiators 8 2 6 0 0 4 -1.467
*updated after Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi fixture on Tuesday night.

Scores in brief
KARACHI KINGS 108-9 in 20 overs (Abbas Afridi 27 not out, Sharjeel Khan 25, Imad Wasim 19, Najibullah Zadran 17; Abrar Ahmed 3-14, Wahab Riaz 3-34, Sameen Gul 2-13);
PESHAWAR ZALMI 109-4 in 11 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 63, Haider Ali 16; Imad Wasim 2-2).

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2021

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