KARACHI (Cricinfo): By the final delivery, Karachi Kings needed nine to win, but you still wouldn’t believe Peshawar Zalmi had triumphed until it was officially over. Not until a heroic Imad Wasim smashed a six over square leg that confirmed his side would finish two runs short despite an unbeaten 80 from their captain could Zalmi really celebrate. For, despite posting 199 and reducing the Karachi Kings to 46 for 4 and seemingly moving out of sight several times, Zalmi kept letting Karachi back in. There were dropped catches, no-balls and free hits, missed run-outs and a slow over rate that deprived Zalmi of a boundary fielder. A 131-run stand between Imad and Shoaib Malik ensured the Kings took it much deeper than expected, but they had left themselves a shade too much to do, and succumbed to an agonising defeat.
For three-fourths of the game, it looked to be a hammering rather than a heartbreaker. Zalmi were inserted and began fluidly, but the early dismissal of their young stars Mohammad Haris and Saim Ayub set them back. It would set the stage for the game’s other sensational partnership, one between Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Babar Azam. It saw Zalmi amass 139 in 81 balls, with Kohler-Cadmore taking the role of aggressor-in-chief. At no point was this more evident than the final powerplay over, when the English lofted Imad for three successive sixes in a momentum-shifting over that leaked 23.
He blitzed along, but Babar was catching up, too. After a slash against Imad – who conceded 42 in his three overs – brought up Babar’s 50, he took the attack to Andrew Tye, plundering 16 off the 15th over before holding out against Imran Tahir.
That this game went so deep was partially down to a resilient fightback with the ball from Kings, who dominated the final five overs with the ball. Zalmi could score just 43 in this period, punctuated by regular wickets, and even Kohler-Cadmore lost his touch slightly. Seemingly nailed on for three figures, he ultimately found the square leg fielder against Ben Cutting in the final over, finishing a breathtaking innings with 92 off 50.
Wahab Riaz struck with his second ball, removing Sharjeel Khan for a golden duck, and despite sloppiness early on, the wickets continued to tumble. Jimmy Neesham removed Matthew Wade with his first delivery, with Salman Irshad putting paid to Haider Ali’s brief stay off his first. Qasim Akram also fell to Neesham, and when Malik and Imad linked up, they looked like Kings’ best hope.
But what a resistance it was. Early on, they only appeared to inject respectability into the scoreline, but when Shakib Al Hasan was carted for 21 in an over, the chase suddenly felt plausible. What followed at the death wasn’t necessarily high quality, with unforced errors in the field largely keeping Kings alive, but what it lacked in class it made up for in drama. The final three overs each saw a no-ball, two dropped catches and a missed run-out. By now, Malik had fallen and Cutting couldn’t quite find his touch right away, leaving it all down to Imad. He would keep going valiantly until the bitter finish, but in a clash that was as much about Babar vs Imad as it was Zalmi vs Kings, it was the Pakistan captain who tasted the sweet elixir of victory.