Babar, Nabi and Abbas Afridi make it 13 in 13 for the chasing side

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Early into the second innings, it finally seemed like a side batting first would win a game in PSL 2021. However, it wasn’t to be, as frequent dropped catches from the Peshawar Zalmi fielders combined with individual fifties for Babar Azam (77*) and Mohammad Nabi (67) secured the Karachi Kings’ comfortable victory at the National Stadium. The win briefly takes the Kings from fourth to first on the PSL 2021 points table. It also makes the streak of chasing sides winning to 13 in as many games.

When Nabi joined Azam in the seventh over of the chase, the Kings were struggling at 43 for 3 in pursuit of 189. But they made full use of the chances offered by the Zalmi fielders to add 118 runs in less than ten overs. After Nabi’s dismissal in the 17th over, Dan Christian played an unbeaten cameo of 16 en route to hitting the winning runs, thereby completing a redemption arc for the Australian, having conceded 32 – the most expensive over in PSL history – in the last over of the first innings. It was a fitting end to the contest that a misfield for four brought an end to the game.

There were some positives for the Zalmi, though, who were playing without regular captain Wahab Riaz, who was out due to a back niggle, and also Imam Ul Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. At one stage in the first innings, they too were struggling at 69 for 4, and that they reached 188 for 5 was courtesy a 40-ball 58 from Ravi Bopara – who came into the XI for this match – and a 32-ball 46 from Sherfane Rutherford.

With Imam dropped from the XI, Zalmi had a new opening pair of Kamran Akmal and Tom Kohler-Cadmore. Together they got off to a positive start, adding 30 for the first wicket. But in the fifth over, PSL debutant Abbas Afridi – who was Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker at the last U-19 World Cup – got the breakthrough. Having troubled Akmal consistently in his first over, Abbas – nephew of former Pakistan quick Umar Gul – bowled a short ball that the batsman hit straight to third man. Four balls later, Abbas removed the struggling Kohler-Cadmore for 10 when the Englishman mistimed a flick to Sharjeel Khan at midwicket.

Youngster Mohammad Ilyas then struck with the first ball of his match in the next over when stand-in captain Shoaib Malik was trapped lbw. That reduced the Zalmi to 34 for 3, after which Bopara and Haider Ali looked to cobble together a partnership. Although Abbas kept them quiet, the duo took on Imad Wasim for a 16-run eighth over. But the stand was broken when Christian got Ali in the tenth over, caught deep behind square on the leg side.

At 69 for 4, the Zalmi were in big trouble, but their two overseas players Bopara and Rutherford changed the innings’ complexion. While Bopara started off slowly, Rutherford hit top gear from the beginning. He hit Arshad Iqbal for a six and four in the 11th over, after which both batsmen creamed Christian for another double-digit haul in the 12th.

Soon after, the Zalmi were past three digits and the pair’s fifty partnership was reached in 40 balls. The fireworks then took place, as the Zalmi hit 79 off the last five overs. Rutherford’s back-to-back sixes off Ilyas bookended the 17th over. Bopara then reached his fifty off 38 balls in the 18th with a boundary. And when Rutherford fell for 46 next over, Zalmi had gone past 150, a fairly respectable score considering where they were in the powerplay.

However, a score of 150-odd got a major boost in the final over when incoming batsman Amad Butt smacked 27 in a 32-run over. The hard-hitting allrounder hit three fours off the first three legal deliveries, then hit a six, and after Christian had to re-bowl the final delivery due to five wides, Butt smacked a six to end the over, taking his personal tally to 27 off seven and Zalmi’s score to 188 for 5.

The momentum of a positive end to the first innings had rubbed off on the Zalmi, and when the second innings started they struck first ball with the wicket of Sharjeel. Looking to pull Mohammad Imran, Sharjeel found Mohammad Irfan at short fine leg. Irfan then got among the wickets when he got a length ball to Joe Clarke to angle across, only for Clarke to poke a catch to the wicketkeeper.

The quick two wickets, though, did not deter Azam from playing his shots. He punished loose balls from Irfan for back-to-back fours and then hit Saqib Mahmood for a four down the ground to keep the scoreboard ticking. However, he saw a third batting partner walk back when the out-of-form Colin Ingram mistimed a pull for a catch on the leg side. At that point, Kings were 43 for 3 and in a real bother.