KARACHI: Hazratullah Zazai almost singlehandedly halted Karachi Kings’ title defence in the HBL Pakistan Super League with a swashbuckling 38-ball knock off 77, propelling Peshawar Zalmi to a dramatic five-wicket victory in their Eliminator 1 clash in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Peshawar’s reward of winning this battle is another meeting with the Qualifier losers Islamabad United in Eliminator 2 to decide which side progresses to Thursday’s final against Multan Sultans. The latter won the Qualifier played earlier on Monday at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Zazai, who had hit a dazzling 63 off 26 balls against the same opposition six days ago, maintained his dominance by reaching a dazzling half century from just 23 deliveries when he whacked Karachi captain Imad Wasim for a six.
Kamran Akmal scored only 13, but the veteran right-hander watched his left-handed opening partner steal the limelight in majestic fashion. He showed no respect to Mohammad Amir by hoisting the out-of-favour Pakistan seamer’s first delivery over midwicket and meted out the same treatment to Mohammad Ilyas and Arshad Iqbal in identical manner.
Thanks to Zazai’s awesome power-hitting, Peshawar were always in complete control of the job on hand, and even when the Afghan dragged Thisara Perera’s military medium-paced delivery from outside the off stump straight down the throat of Martin Guptill at long on after having smashed 10 fours and five sixes with a tremendous strike rate of 202.63, damage had been already done from Karachi’s perspective.
It was then left to the experienced Shoaib Malik (30 off 25 balls) to ensure Peshawar get over the line after. Malik and Khalid Usman were involved in a fourth-wicket stand of 52 in 29 deliveries.
With the pitch lacking pace to encourage batsmen playing big shots at will on a steamy night, Peshawar took a gamble by opting to chase rather than set Karachi a challenging target.
The ploy seemed to pay off as both Sharjeel Khan and Babar Azam found it hard going in the Power play. Sharjeel, a natural stroke-maker, somehow succeeded to some extent by striking five fours until he was trapped by the gangling left-armer Mohammad Irfan in front of the stumps. He sought a review immediately but all in vain as three reds appeared on the big screen.
The departure of Sharjeel for a 20-ball 26 was quickly followed by that of Martin Guptill as the out-of-form New Zealander edged Umaid Asif’s third delivery of his first over to wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal for a three-ball duck — the 34-year-old right-hander’s fifth failure in his debut PSL season — as Karachi stumbled to 42-2 midway into the seventh over.
After his 13-ball 45, which enabled Karachi to qualify for this phase, Danish Aziz was promoted from No7 to 4, but the left-hander perished for 13 while miscuing a high-ball catch for Imam in trying to smash Irfan out of the ground.
Babar duly brought up yet another half century — the ace right-hander’s seventh of this edition — but his 45-ball innings of 53 (six boundaries) was cut short by Wahab. He had the Pakistan skipper caught by Rovman Powell on the run inside the long-on boundary.
Karachi were in desperate search of some fireworks and the recalled Perera amply answered their prayers by going after debutant spinner Khalid Usman in the left-armer’s last over, clobbering two fours and two sixes from the final four deliveries of the 16th over. It yielded 22 runs.
However, the left-handed Perera — whose vital contribution of 37 off just 18 balls included four fours and three sixes — was deceived by Umaid’s back of length slower ball and holed out into the safe hands of Powell, who then brought off another well-judged catch to see the back of Imad for a nine-ball 16.
Young seamer Mohammad Imran might have had another wicket on the very next ball, but Zazai miffed the bowler by missing a sitter.
The look of anguish on the faces of Karachi head coach Herschelle Gibbs and the franchise’s president Wasim Akram was a clear indication that it wasn’t their night in the desert, even though Peshawar had to sweat until the penultimate delivery.
But they must thank their stars as two chances were not grabbed in the last over when seven runs were still required.
Scores in brief
KARACHI KINGS 175-7 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 53, N.L.T.C. Perera 37, Sharjeel Khan 26, Imad Wasim 16, Danish Aziz 13; Mohammad Irfan 2-21, Wahab Riaz 2-29, Umaid Asif 2-37, Mohammad Imran 1-37);
PESHAWAR ZALMI 176-5 in 19.5 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 77, Shoaib Malik 30, S.E. Rutherford 17 not out, Khalid Usman 17, Kamran Akmal 13, Imam-ul-Haq 11; N.L.T.C. Perera 2-10, Mohammad Ilyas 1-30, Mohammad Amir 1-37, Noor Ahmed 1-41).
Tuesday’s fixture: Eliminator 2 — Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi (9:00pm PST).
Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021