Karachi Kings paid a perfect homage to Dean Jones, their coach who passed away last month due to cardiac arrest, as they won their maiden Pakistan Super League title by defeating Lahore Qalandars in the final on Tuesday (November 17). After the Karachi pacers restricted Lahore to a below-par total, Babar Azam crafted a stunning half-century under immense pressure to lead his team to a superb five-wicket win.
Opting to bat, Fakhar Zaman and Tamim Iqbal got Lahore off to a decent start but they lost the plot in the last 10 overs and could only manage 134/7 in their 20 overs on a sluggish surface. In reply, Azam remained unbeaten on 63 off 49 deliveries and helped Karachi chase down the total in 18.4 overs.
Earlier, Fakhar and Tamim didn't get off to a flying start but both of them managed a boundary each in the first two overs. The two openers, who added 46 in less than five overs in the second Eliminator against Multan Sultans, took a bit of time to settle in as Mohammad Amir was extracting good movement with the new ball. The surface was a bit tricky as there were a couple of deliveries that kept low, while one or two just vaulted off it.
Tamim in particular didn't look comfortable at the start but Fakhar kept trying to make things happen. The latter smashed Amir for back-to-back boundaries in the fourth over but didn't find much support from Tamim. The opener from Bangladesh didn't look comfortable against Waqas Maqsood (2/18) as the track was slightly holding up. Tamim was on 10 off 22 deliveries before he finally got a loosener from Arshad Iqbal in the final over of the powerplay and whipped it for his second boundary. Lahore didn't lose a single wicket but could only manage 37 runs in the first six overs.
THE MAJOR COLLAPSE
The Karachi seamers kept hitting that length and allowed the surface to do the rest. Tamim however was slowly starting to get his timing right and tonked Iftikhar Ahmed over long-off for the first maximum of the final. Lahore were operating at just more than six runs per over and the onus was on these two to up the ante. Just when the two openers were starting to get a move on, Umaid Asif sent both of them back to the hut in the space of four deliveries.
Playing ahead of Wayne Parnell, the 36-year-old seamer had Tamim (38-ball 35) caught at deep mid-wicket before Fakhar (24-ball 27) too was caught at the same region. The credit should also be given to Iftikhar who had to cover a lot of ground to his left from deep mid-wicket to grab the catch. Before the dust had settled, in-form Mohammad Hafeez (2) and Samit Patel (5) threw away their wickets as Lahore collapsed from 68 for no loss to 81/4. While Hafeez was undone by Imad Wasim, Samit fell to Arshad Iqbal who got him with a well-directed bouncer.
Even someone like Ben Dunk (11) never looked comfortable despite facing more than two overs. Lahore kept losing wickets and even the scoring rate dropped to almost six runs per over. No matter who the batsman was, Arshad kept bowling short and didn't allow any batsman to dictate terms. The paceman had Dunk caught at deep mid-wicket and finished with figures of 2/26. Meanwhile, Asif too mixed his line and length perfectly and returned with figures of 2/18.
Lahore desperately needed Sohail Akhtar (14) and David Wiese to fire, but that didn't happen either. Having smoked back-to-back cameos in the last two encounters, Wiese could only manage a run-a-ball 14*. Shaheen Afridi (4-ball 14*) however slammed a six and a four in the final over to provide Lahore some momentum. Mohammad Amir was the most expensive bowler as he finished with figures of 0/38. The left-arm seamer went for 15 in the final over as Lahore finished 134/7 in their 20 overs.
THE BABAR AZAM SHOW
The scoring rate was never going to be an issue but it was important for Karachi to not get over defensive. Afridi and Haris Rauf didn't mix up their pace and that allowed Azam and Sharjeel Khan to get off to a rapid start. It all started with Azam announcing his arrival with a couple of eye-pleasing drives before Sharjeel did the same to Rauf in the second over. Lahore captain Akhtar took the gamble of bowling Patel to Sharjeel (13) inside the powerplay and the ploy paid off as the left-arm spinner gave his team the first breakthrough by getting rid of the opener in the fourth over.
Patel used all his experience, but so did Azam and Alex Hales who kept the scoreboard moving with ones and twos. Karachi were cruising along nicely before Dilbar Hussain knocked over Hales (11) with an outstanding slower delivery. Azam knew it was important for him to stay at the crease and that's exactly what he did. The second-ranked T20I batsman looked at ease from the word go and along with Chadwick Walton kept the scoreboard moving. There were occasional boundaries as well as the two ensured that the required run-rate never went over 7.
Azam batted very smartly and ensured there was no repeat of the mishap that almost cost them the game in the first qualifier. Chasing 142 against Multan, Karachi were 117/3 at one stage but the moment Azam perished, they lost four wickets for just 16 runs and the match ended in a tie. Karachi did win the Super Over but Azam was in no mood of being involved in another one. Every Lahore bowler tried their best but they couldn't get the better of Azam who brought up his fifth fifty of the season and got the equation down to 25 off 30.
It was Dilbar once again who broke the 61-run stand when he returned back into the attack and pinned Walton (27-ball 22) right in front of the stumps. It was a bit too late for Lahore, plus Azam was still at the crease. Iftikhar and Sherfane Rutherford perished in consecutive deliveries to give Karachi a bit of a scare but Imad released all the pressure by getting a boundary in the same over. Eventually, it was the skipper himself who sealed the deal in the penultimate over.