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March 14, 2019

Karachi look to reverse tide against formidable Islamabad


March 14, 2019

KARACHI: The formbook suggests a cakewalk for defending champions Islamabad United here at the National Stadium on Thursday (today). But the first Eliminators of the HBL Pakistan Super League that will pit Islamabad against the host city’s franchise is least likely to be a one-sided affair.

That’s because Karachi Kings are an unpredictable side that could be peaking at the right time.However, Islamabad, the two-time champions, will be hoping that they will continue their domination of Karachi in a bid to stay in the hunt for a third PSL crown.

Thursday’s winner will meet the losing side from Wednesday’s match between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi in Eliminator 2 on Friday, with the winner qualifying for the sell-out 17 March final.

Islamabad, winners in 2016 and 2018, were equal on points with their rivals in the league phase with 10 in as many games, finished ahead of Karachi on better net run-rate.They also have more balance in their batting and bowling, which earned them two wins against Karachi in this year’s event.

This season, Islamabad have proved to be a better batting and bowling unit as they beat Karachi by seven and five wickets, respectively in the two league matches, with Asif Ali benefiting from a dropped catch to plunder a match-winning 70 in Dubai, the 18th match of this season.

However, Islamabad captain Mohammad Sami feels it will be a new match on a new day.“We have done well in the league phase, but there are no advantages because come Thursday it will be a new match for both the teams,” said Sami, who took a hat-trick against Peshawar Zalmi in the league phase.

Sami leads a strong pace attack, which also comprise Faheem Ashraf (19 wickets) and Rumman Raees (seven wickets), besides the youthful exuberance of Musa Khan and Ammad Butt.In Shadab Khan and Samit Patel, Islamabad have two good spinners who can check the flow of runs and also claim crucial wickets.

Ronchi with 297 runs at a strike rate of 158.82 is Islamabad’s leading run-scorer (behind Shane Watson’s 352 and Colin Ingram 321) and always comes good against Karachi. Asif also poses danger in the middle-order as he can be effective in the slog overs.

Karachi are also shaping up well with time and before home fans. They had the better of Quetta in the last-ball thriller by one-run before going down to Peshawar in the last league game to finish fourth.

Karachi captain Imad Wasim hopes his team catches Islamabad napping.“We are looking forward to play against Islamabad. We have had a lot of good battles against them and they have obviously won a lot of games against us.

“This time around, we think it’s our time and we are hopeful to win this match,” said Imad, who hopes fans come to support in big numbers.“My message is to come and support us in the last two matches and we will not disappoint you,” he said.

Karachi will hope Colin Ingram, Babar Azam (293 runs in 10 matches) and Liam Livingstone (291 runs) lift them to a good total and hope their spin-cum pace attack stops Islamabad. Left-arm spinner Umar Khan has been a revelation for Karachi, having taken 13 wickets in the league phase.

The pace attack comprising of Mohammad Amir (12 wickets) and Usman Shinwari (12) is also getting better results with each match. Sohail Khan bowled well in the win over Quetta but went wicket-less in the last four matches.

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