No one knew whether it was Karachi Kings’ last HBL Pakistan Super League match of the season on their home turf at the National Stadium on Sunday, but Imad Wasim and company were treating it as if it was.
The Kings played Multan Sultans on a hot spring afternoon in the metropolis.
Coming into the fixture at the back of a poor start to their campaign — four defeats in five matches — the Kings made sure they made the changes that were needed, bringing in Tayyab Tahir in place of struggling batter Haider Ali and replaced South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir with his compatriot Tabraiz Shamsi — both making their PSL debut.
To their delight, both changes worked as Tahir went on to smash a brilliant half-century and Shamsi ran through the Sultans’ middle order to help the Kings thrash the Multan outfit by 66 runs.
Apart from the few spots in the stands where the sun shined brightly, the venue was occupied by supporters — mostly partisan towards the Kings. Despite the heavy attendance, the noise was low as the Sultans’ openers Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood made a decent start towards their chase, a fairly easy-looking one for 167 on a slow turner. But when veteran Shoaib Malik spun one sharply to castle Multan dangerman Rilee Rossouw cheaply, it got the Karachi fans hoping.
After Malik had provided the opening, an animated Shamsi went on to bamboozle the remaining Multan batters with his chinaman bowling, also making the decibels reach the roof at the iconic arena as the visitors succumbed eventually, giving Karachi breathing space to recover from their poor start.
With Rossouw gone, Multan had their hopes pinned on David Miller. But the left-hander survived only 10 balls and became Shamsi’s first victim as he found Malik’s safe hands at long off. In the next over, the tenth, Malik forced a leading edge off Rizwan’s bat (29 off 25) for Tahir to take a stunning diving catch as he ran in from the backward point, triggering massive celebrations.
Shamsi then cleaned up Khushdil Shah with a sharp googly before making Usama Mir his third victim and registering figures of 3-18.
After Imad cleaned up Carlos Brathwaite and Akeal Hosain, Malik wrapped up the proceedings with his third, after having given away just 16 runs.
The Kings were average with the bat and barring opener James Vince’s early onslaught and promising innings by Tahir, the hosts had nothing to show for it.
Vince’s partner Matthew Wade’s 46 off 47 proved counterproductive for the Karachi outfit and neutralised the impact of Tahir’s impressive show for 65 runs off 46 balls, which included eight fours and a six.
After Vince gave a flying start to the Kings with a 12-ball 27, Tahir flicked effortlessly to score a boundary through the leg-side on the first ball that he faced, showing signs of form. But that was all the Kings could manage in the over, which saw just five runs come for the home side and disrupted their flow in the powerplay, at the end of which the scoreboard read 52-1. The introduction of Mir in the eighth over saw Wade survive a review following an appeal for lbw but the leg-spinner was driven for another classical four through the covers by Tahir on the last ball.
The burly right-hander welcomed Brathwaite into the attack with a pull off his hips for another boundary before using immense power to heave the medium-pacer straight down the ground for four more. At the halfway stage, the Kings were 86-1.
After Wade, who was playing more as an anchor, cut Abbas Afridi for past point for his third boundary, Tahir expertly found the gap between midwicket and long-on as he went deep into his crease to pull Mir for another four in the next over.
The 29-year-old Tahir was fearless against Multan pacer Ihsanullah as well, as he pulled up to find another gap on the leg-side as he neared his half-century. He brought up the milestone on his 33rd delivery with a slash past backward point for four off Mir in the 14th over, which also saw Wade reverse-sweep the lanky spinner for another before surviving a close call for a catch.
Tahir hit his first six when he went down on one knee to lift Afridi’s slower one over long-off.
Multan captain Rizwan had brilliantly planned to save Ihsanullah’s overs for the death overs and the express pacer started his final spell by trapping Tahir leg-before with a yorker. Afridi and Ihsanullah then went on to suffocate the Kings for runs and the latter got Wade — the left-hander having his stumps unrooted.
The Kings’ captain Imad arrived at the crease a bit too late. The left-hander reverse-paddled Afridi for a four before slapping a shorter one straight down the ground for a six in the final over but the hosts had to settle for an under-par score, which, thanks to Shamsi and Malik, proved more than enough for them.