LAHORE: Kamran Akmal in a sublime form of his career scripted Peshawar Zalmi’s win over Karachi Kings in the second eliminator of the Pakistan Super League at the Gaddafi Stadium Wednesday night.
In front of a capacity crowd and a nip in the air following the day-long rain, which also delayed the match, Zalmi winning the match by 13 runs got a flying start from Kamran and Andre Fletcher in its 170 runs for seven in 16 overs, reduced from usual quota of overs.
Now the defending champions Peshawar Zalmi will meet former champions Islamabad United in the final on March 25 in Karachi. After posting a gigantic score on the board, Zalmi tightened the screw bit-by-bit on Kings, ultimately confining them to 157 runs for two. Just from the second wicket partnership of 117 runs between Joe Denly and Babar Azam, Kings failed to achieve the run rate required. Hasan Ali broke the partnership with Babar’s wicket at 63 in 45 balls (6x4, 2x6). Denly was then at 58 and was joined by Colin Ingram when Kings requiring 40 runs in nine balls. Denly remained not out at 79 (9x4, 4x6) with Ingram lingering at the other end.
Earlier, Kamran who was in great form throughout this third season of the PSL, was the first to hit the fastest 17-ball PSL half century. Karachi Kings’ stand-in captain Mohammad Amir, who replaced injured Shahid Afridi, totally misjudged the conditions after winning the toss and his decision to field backfired.
Kamran, in his rapid-fire slogging got 77 in 27 balls, slapped Kings with 13 boundaries, eight of which landed flying high across the ropes. His opening partner Fletcher on his part cracked 34 with the help of three fours and two sixes as he faced 30 balls. They maintained above 10 runs per over average right from the start of the match.
Kings used six bowlers to keep these two in check but of no avail until Ravi Bopara had success in his 10th over when he trapped Fletcher and then Kamran. Bopara brought an end to their 107 runs opening wicket partnership with Denly taking the catch of Fletcher at long on. Liam Dawson, who just Tuesday put Quetta Gladiators attack to sword, joined Kamran, and started his innings with a six. But Kamran became the second victim (at 120/2) of Bopara on the last ball of the same over.
Though Bopara took two key wickets in his three-wicket haul also conceded 13 runs in the same over with one six hit by Dawson and the other by Kamran before going back to the pavillion.
The following batsmen, Dawson 13, Mohammad Hafeez 13, Darren Sammy (23 in 12 balls), Saad Nasim 2, Wahab Riaz and Chris Jordon contributed useful 50 runs in addition to the openers score. Mills had two wickets while Usman Khan got one. Zalmi had one change with its opener Tamim Iqbal replaced by the English all-rounder Chris Jordon while Kings made three changes in the side; Danish Aziz, Mukhtar Ahmed and Ravi Bopara, in for Morgan, Afridi and Imad Wasim.
Intermittent rain since morning left everyone in a fix but even then fans from across the city assembled in great numbers at the stadium to be part of the second eliminator. The ground staff made maximum efforts for drying the outfield fit for play. Even choppers were used at around 5.30 pm to dry the outfield. And just before that, all the covers were taken off the wicket. At 7.30 pm, the field umpires came out for first inspection and declared the ground fit to start the match at 8.15 pm with 16 overs a side match.
All the tickets for second eliminator were sold out while strict security measures were put in place to ensure smooth conduct of the match. Personnel of law-enforcing agencies and security teams were deployed inside and outside the stadium.