The PSL 2021 opener was as one-sided as it could get. The defending champions, Karachi Kings ticked all the boxes, including the toss, while Quetta Gladiators will find it hard to draw any positives from this game. As a result, Karachi kicked off their campaign with a handsome win, chasing the target down with seven wickets and as many as 37 balls in hand.
Put in to bat first, Quetta were bowled out for a meagre 121. As told by their skipper, Sarfaraz Ahmed after the game, they were eyeing a score of 170-180 but one can say they went too hard at the Karachi bowlers who did not miss their mark today. Tom Banton, after picking a boundary off the third ball of the first over, went for a big shot but only managed a top-edge to the wicketkeeper, Joe Clarke.
Quetta opted to keep Chris Gayle at number three, probably citing his success in the 2020 edition of IPL, and Sarfaraz walked out to open with Banton. The move did not work at all. It allowed Karachi’s skipper, Imad Wasim to continue with his tactic of opening the bowling. Moreover, Sarfaraz himself could not score much - dismissed in the third over for seven off eight balls. It also left Quetta a little thin on experience in the middle-order.
Consequently, they kept losing wickets with no real partnership. The 18-year old Saim Ayub, batting at number four, struggled to rotate the strike and ultimately perished in a failed attempt to break the shackles after scoring 8 off 14 balls. His sluggish strike-rate came further into question when Chris Gayle, batting at the other end, looked in imperious form. The left-hander and a key batsman for Quetta had his innings cut short by a brilliant slower one by Dan Christian in the over after Ayub’s departure as the third wicket.
Christian rolled his fingers around the seam, driving Gayle too early into the shot. The mistimed shot went to Mohammad Amir at the third man position and brought Quetta down to 68 for four in the ninth over. Mohammad Nawaz's run out in a mix-up with Azam Khan further underlined Quetta's troubles.
Quetta managed only 55 runs in the middle-overs for the loss of five wickets. They had lost each of their top seven batsmen heading into the slog overs letting Karachi into the lower-order too early.
It took Karachi only 22 balls to pick the remaining three wickets. All of their six bowlers were into the wickets and a majority of the damage was done by Arshad Iqbal who finished with three wickets for 16 runs in his four overs. His three scalps included the key wickets of Azam Khan, Ben Cutting and Mohammad Hasnain.
The only way Quetta could come back into the game was taking early wickets. In helpful conditions for the seamers, Quetta did manage one. Hasnain removed Sharjeel Khan for 4 in the first over of the innings. However, a counter-attacking approach from Joe Clarke broke the back of the chase.
From 12 for one in three overs, Clarke elevated Karachi to end the Powerplay at 60 for two, thus bringing the required run-rate below 5 runs per over.
Clarke began the onslaught by taking Naseem Shah to the cleaners. He struck Naseem for 19 runs in the over - one six and three fours. He bettered it next over by taking a liking to Qais Ahmed. Taking full toll of the leg-spinner bowling with field restrictions in operation, he collected 24 runs in the over. Clarke drove, ran down the track and also lofted the ball over the in-field off the back foot to find the fence on five occasions in the over - two sixes and three fours. All these shots came in the arc between the long-off and the cover region. There were also three wides down the leg side which made it 27 off the over. Such was his brilliance that Babar Azam, one of the top T20 batsmen nowadays took a backseat, scoring only 4 runs at the other end.
Clarke was out in the next over when he found the fielder positioned at the deep mid-wicket but had made enough impact with his 46 runs off 23 balls.
Babar, Colin Ingram and Mohammad Nabi took Karachi past the finish line without any fuss. Nabi, who did not get a chance to bowl, scored an unbeaten 30 off 14 balls, wrapping up things within 14 overs.