LAHORE: A 117-run stand between Joe Denly and Babar Azam for the second wicket proved futile as defending champions Peshawar Zalmi beat the Karachi Kings by 13 runs to set up Sunday’s final with Islamabad United in Karachi.
Chasing 171, after another Kamran Akmal blitz had set up the mammoth total in the rain hit contest, Denly eventually was left stranded at 79* off 46 balls, as the Kings eventually ran out of balls in the daunting hunt finishing at 157/2.
For the second day running rain threatened to wash out a knockout playoff contest. But for the second day running the heavens came out second best. However, for Wednesday’s second eliminator, which was a virtual semifinal, the rains did manage to reduce the contest to a 16-over affair.
The Kings were led by Mohammed Amir for Wednesday’s playoff, after Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi were ruled out through injury and Eoin Morgan had decided against coming to Pakistan for the playoffs. Amir won the toss and for the second day running, Zalmi were put into bat.
It was the Kamran Akmal show for the first nine overs of the Zalmi innings, as the tournament’s leading run-scorer scored this season’s fastest 50 in 17 balls. He scored 77 off 27 balls taking Zalmi to 120 after 10 overs, and putting one foot of the defending champions in Sunday’s final.
Akmal had missed out in Tuesday’s playoff against Quetta Gladiators, but now has scored two half-centuries and a century in the past four matches for Zalmi, all of which have been knockout contests for the Peshawar side.
Akmal’s opening partner Andre Fletcher had been circumspect early on, but finished with 34 off 30 balls, mostly being content in giving his in-form opening partner the strike.
After Akmal’s dismissal on the final ball of the 10th over, none of the Zalmi batsmen really got going. An 11-ball cameo by skipper Darren Sammy, with two sixes and a four, helped Zalmi finish with a formidable 170/7 at the end of their allotted 16 overs.
For the Kings, skipper Amir was the pick of the bowlers. Despite not picking up any wickets, he was the one who bowled the 4 overs, which was the maximum allocated for a single bowler in the revised conditions, conceding a mere 16 runs. Tymal Mills also finished well with 2/23 in his three overs.
Ravi Bopara did pick up three wickets – two of which were the openers – but he went for 35 in his three overs. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the Kings was Usman Khan Shinwari who conceded 48 in his three overs.
In reply, as the Kings lost Mukhtar Ahmed at 13 in the second over, it was the century partnership between Joe Denly and Babar Azam, both of whom reached their half-century in the 12th over that kept Karachi in the chase.
As the strategic timeout Kings were 121/1 after 13 overs, with both Denly and Azam at 56* having played 36 and 39 balls respectively, leaving 50 to win off the last 18 balls.
Even though both had displayed some impressive stroke play and did score at a healthy rate, eventually it didn’t prove to be nearly enough and the Kings remained behind the eight ball throughout the chase, even though they had only lost 1 wicket as the final three overs approached.
Chris Jordan’s impressive 14th over, where he only conceded seven runs, virtually sealed the match for Zalmi, even though the Kings remained a solitary wicket down, with two half-centurions at the crease.
Babar Azam eventually fell to Hasan Ali on the third ball of the penultimate over, after scoring 63 off 45 balls.
Denly hit a six and two boundaries off the next two balls to breathe some form of life into the contest. But 27 off the last over always was too runs too many, despite last night’s nerve wrecking final over.
For Zalmi, Sameen Gul was the pick off the bowlers, taking a wicket and conceding only 20 in his three overs.
Sunday’s final will now be contested between Zalmi and Islamabad United – the only two sides to have won the PSL.
While United have been by far and away the best side of the season so far, Zalmi have now won four straight knockout contests, giving them all the momentum they would need.