KARACHI: Quetta Gladiators out-grafted Karachi Kings on Sunday afternoon in a far from a glamorous win by five wickets. Imad Wasim became the first captain all year to choose to bat first at the toss, and he may be the last one to do so for some time based on the way his team responded.
A stodgy Kings innings was full of fits and starts as four batsmen crossed 20, but none of them were able to reach 30 with Mohammad Hasnain and Tymal Mills doing their best to keep the Kings off balance with regular changes of pace. Yet despite so many nondescript individual efforts, Kings were still able to cobble together 156.
Gladiators nearly bungled what should have been a simple chase thanks to a trio of run-outs, not to mention a trio of other run-out chances that the Kings failed to convert in the field. When Azam Khan was the third run-out victim for 46 to start the 18th, it looked like the door might be left ajar for an unlikely Kings rally in the field as Mohammad Nawaz skied a slower ball to deep midwicket for the fifth wicket a short time later. But after entering at No. 7, Anwar Ali drove his first ball from Chris Jordan over mid-off for four, then ended the match three balls later heaving Jordan for six over long-on to clinch victory with an over to spare.
With 34 needed off 24 balls on what had been a difficult wicket to get going for most of the day, Sarfaraz Ahmed flipped a switch, clubbing the first two balls of the 17th over from Arshad Iqbal over the midwicket rope for six and four. Azam top-edged a hook over fine leg for another boundary two balls later in what turned out to be a 17-run over, the most expensive of the match for either side. It brought the required run rate under a run a ball and despite a brief wobble losing two wickets in the next seven balls, Gladiators held their nerve behind Anwar’s cool finish.
Azam Khan’s straight driving was superb, accounting for both of his sixes and another of his fours as he top-scored on the day with 46 off 30 balls before being run-out by Mohammad Amir on an athletic effort spinning to fire down the stumps at the non-striker’s end off his own bowling. He offered several chances but continued to be a thorn in the side of the Kings bowlers as long as he stayed at the crease. Alongside Sarfaraz, the pair added 85 for the fourth wicket to navigate Gladiators chase. Needing 90 off the last 10 overs, the pair made it look relatively comfortable.
So many to choose from in the field as both sides could not capitalise on numerous chances. But Arshad Iqbal blew a pair of opportunities to run out Azam relatively early in his innings. The first came when Azam was on 18 in the 12th over at 80 for 3. After flicking a full-length ball off his pads from Arshad to Mohammad Amir at short fine leg, Sarfaraz caught Azam off guard calling for a tight run. Amir’s relay to the non-striker’s stumps had Azam beat by five yards but Arshad fumbled the take in the midst of scrambling into position over the stumps.
In Arshad’s next over in the 14th, Sarfaraz tapped into short midwicket and called for a second run with Azam struggling badly trying to come back. Though Azam practically dropped his bat in desperation trying to stretch for the second, the throw by Arshad bounced over the stumps again at the non-striker’s end on 28.
Gladiators now top the table on four points after three matches. Kings are locked with three other teams in second place on two points, but are in fifth based on their inferior net run rate.