Babar Azam 90 helps Karachi Kings canter to victory

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Kings’ win made it nine victories in nine for chasing teams in PSL 2021

Karachi Kings 198 for 3 (Azam 90*, Clarke 54, Dhani 2-28) beat Multan Sultans 195 for 6 (Vince 45, Rizwan 43, Arshad 2-36) by seven wickets

The Pakistan Super League continued to deliver more of the same in one aspect. Chasing sides continue to reign supreme, with Karachi Kings putting together another masterclass to ease past Multan Sultans by seven wickets. It came about – despite a desperately ordinary bowling performance where Karachi nearly set the world record for the number of wides conceded – due to a chasing masterclass by Babar Azam. Shelving the criticism he’d copped for his go-slow towards the backend of the game against Islamabad a couple of days ago, he unleashed his full repertoire to ensure the asking rate was always on a leash, his unbeaten 60-ball 90 key to guaranteeing his side were never in trouble throughout the chase.

Multan didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with the ball either, but Babar and Joe Clarke, whose 26-ball 54 was the hammer to Babar’s paintbrush, accumulated 97 for the second wicket partnership to leave their side just over a run-a-ball at the death. It was during this phase that Multan’s stutters were truly highlighted. Multan had managed just two boundaries during the final five overs, and with no pressure on Karachi to do anything extravagant, the last few overs were more of a canter than a high-speed chase.

It promised to be a bit different for the side batting first this time, especially when Chris Lynn joined Mohammad Rizwan at the party for the opening partnership. Karachi were profligate enough with the ball to let Multan cruise past 50, and then soon after, 100, with Rizwan’s side looking set to surpass 200 for much of the innings. But once the top three fell, the lower order couldn’t quite find the same explosiveness with the bat. Sohaib Maqsood’s 27-ball 34 was well short of what was required, while Rilee Rossouw, Khushdil Shah and Shahid Afridi failed to hit a boundary between them.

Karachi had Mohammad Amir to thank for that, who put aside one loose over in the Powerplay to deliver two sensational death overs, hitting his lines almost every delivery and reducing the projected total every delivery he bowled. The innings ended with more of a whimper than a flourish, and the momentum Karachi had wrestled back at the death was gone for good for Multan.

Amir’s arc

Four overs might seem like too short a time for a comeback and redemption arc, but Amir’s 24 balls carried all the narrative plot points of an epic today. His first over was perhaps the best anyone has bowled this season, a spellbinding six deliveries that saw two failed reviews, two balls that beat the bat and one which clipped the bails without dislodging them. Even more impressive was the fact the man at the other end was arguably the most in-form batsman in world cricket: Rizwan.

But that over was followed up by an ugly, nine-ball sequel which leaked 18 runs; Amir would exit the attack there and then. He was brought back on when the scorecard read 164 for four after 16, and showed he wasn’t just handy when the ball was shiny and new. His array of cutters, arm balls, cross-seamers, pace variations, and deadly accuracy on full display, he wouldn’t concede a single boundary in his final two, hopelessly outfoxing and finally dismissing Shahid Afridi. It would keep Multan below 200, and Karachi on top.

Multan’s bowling misery

195 may not as many runs as Multan might have wanted, but the complete absence of pressure Rizwan’s bowlers were able to put on the batsmen will still disappoint the side. The total was steep enough to make a game out of, but for the vast majority of the second innings, both sides went through the motions, with the outcome seemingly decided well in advance. Sohail Khan’s promising first over was followed by an unfortunate one that Karachi plundered 20 from, and it seemed to be game, set, match there and then.

The spinners were equally ineffective, with Usman Qadir missing his lengths frequently enough to see boundaries conceded off each of his overs, while 32 off 3 capped a miserable day for Afridi, who never managed to get going with the bat. Losing Mohammad Ilyas in the draft – and just as importantly, not replacing him – looks to be costing Multan dear for now, and placing ever more pressure on the batsmen to put up bigger and steeper totals.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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