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Hales, Asif see Islamabad through, Karachi Kings eliminated | Cricket




Muhammad Musa celebrates a wicket © Pakistan Super League

How the game played out

Karachi Kings may be one of the less prolific sides in this competition’s brief history, but they are the only side to have knocked Islamabad United out of any PSL tournament. That victory came in an Eliminator two years ago. But today, Islamabad United avenged that loss in a scrappy, entertaining game where both sides chugged along like an antique car on a dodgy engine, hurtling along seemingly without control before grinding to a halt at various stages of their innings. The upshot was a four-wicket win for Islamabad, who chased down Karachi’s 161 with three balls to spare.

Despite the loss, the most memorable part of the game was arguably the first six overs. Karachi had courageously won the toss and chosen to bat first in a tournament where that decision is close to sacrilege, and blistered to 50 in just 20 balls as Colin Munro finally began to make good on the talent based on which he was signed. When he feathered an edge to Mohammad Musa, he had smashed 32 runs in a mere 11 balls, and Karachi were motoring along at 17 an over. They would go on to add an eye-watering 78 in the first six, as the boundaries flew like confetti.

Islamabad came back to choke them after the Powerplay ended, and somehow maintained that stranglehold right throughout the innings, with Karachi only just managing to double their Powerplay total, in the end limping to 161 for nine. Most of Islamabad’s bowlers had recovered their figures, and the one who was most expensive – Muhammad Musa – was the highest wicket-taker, having removed Munro, Ingram and Iftikhar Ahmed.

Islamabad’s chase always looked tight, not helped by a slow start and Ronchi’s early departure. Alex Hales and Cameron Delport saw them through the Powerplay, but the nerves wouldn’t have been eased as the asking rate continued to rise in the face of a stellar bowling attack and a world-class spell from Umer Khan. Towards the end, it came down to Islamabad’s own local talent in Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali and Hussain Talat to manage the asking rate. Mohammad Amir missed his lines once too often, Babar Azam dropped a catch once too frequently and Karachi were simply a few too short in the final overs. It all amounted to Islamabad getting to the finish line just in time, dashing Karachi’s hopes of a title on home soil.

Turning point

  • Karachi began to struggle as soon as that whirlwind of a Powerplay came to a close, but the final three overs were especially ruinous to their chances. Positioned at 150 for six with three overs to go, they still had the opportunity to pose a stiff challenge with a brisk finish. Instead, the last three overs saw a mere 11 runs scored.

Star of the day

Pakistan have swooned over the fast bowling gems they may have unearthed this tournament, and bemoaned the lack of exciting local batsmen. But the find of the competition may be 19-year old Umer Khan, perhaps the most promising spinner to come out of the PSL since Shadab Khan. Having impressed ever since he got AB de Villiers out weeks ago, Umer has found a way to get the biggest names of the planet out just when Karachi have required him to. His spell today was one of the spells of the tournament, with the teenager the only bowler to find genuine drift and turn on a flat wicket. He wasn’t afraid of flighting the ball, and found due rewards, finding the outside edges of Delport and Chadwick Walton within three deliveries of each other. He ended up with 4-0-16-2, and if ever a performance deserved not to end up in the losing side, it was his.

The big miss

Ronchi has the highest strike rate in the world off the first 10 balls, but the New Zealand opener was strangely subdued over that period today. Valued around the world because he doesn’t need so much as a warm-up ball to begin attacking the bowlers, Ronchi played out nine deliveries today, unable to get one to the boundary rope. Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir and Aamer Yamin all executed their plans perfectly, pitching the ball short of a length. It deprived Ronchi of the ability to strike the ball through the line. The change-up came off his ninth ball, with Yamin sending down a wide yorker that Ronchi could only mishit to mid-on. 5 off 9 is an unlikely innings breakdown for the Islamabad talisman, and in a game of exceptionally fine margins, they almost ended up paying for it.

Big picture

Karachi bow out with today’s defeat, with Islamabad through to the playoff with Peshawar tomorrow. The winner of that contest plays Quetta Gladiators in the final.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000


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