Pakistan captain Babar Azam starred with the bat once again as Karachi Kings lifted their maiden title on Tuesday defeating Lahore Qalandars by five wickets. The pre-match chatter from the Karachi camp was all about dedicating the trophy to their late coach Dean Jones and the entire unit delivered in style on the big night with a clinical performance.
The pitches in the playoffs have been good for batting but the one in the final definitely wasn’t a belter. Tamim Iqbal, in particular, found the going tough on an uneven surface where certain deliveries stayed low and a few bounced more than usual. By the end of the first four overs, Fakhar Zaman had raced to 16 off 9 but Tamim stuttered his way to 10 off 18. Even though he broke the shackles in the final over of the powerplay, Lahore managed only 37 in those six overs despite not losing a wicket.
Ben Dunk might have hit the most number of sixes in the PSL this season but those three quick wickets ensured he went into a shell as well and Karachi were well and truly on top of the contest. The procession continued in the middle overs as Dunk and Samit Patel were the next to head back to the pavilion. Skipper Sohail Aktar fell in the penultimate over as boundaries were extremely hard to come by. Lahore had to rely on a four and a six from the bat of Shaheen Afridi in the final over to go past the 130-run mark.
Well, the track was two-paced so you could never rule out any result even though the first innings total was well below par. But when the opposition camp has someone like Babar in their ranks, defending 134 is near impossible unless he departs early. And on the night of the final, Babar ensured he never departed. He started off the chase with two cracking boundaries off Shaheen in the very first over and even though Sharjeel Khan fell early, Lahore knew Babar was the key wicket. Alex Hales’s departure also didn’t deter the Pakistan opener as Karachi cautiously crawled to 69/2 by the halfway mark.
It was almost as if he was batting on a different pitch. With the target being just 135, Babar hardly took any risks. He found an able partner in Chadwick Walton, who was also content in rotating the strike. Just before the strategic break, Haris Rauf conceded five wides courtesy of a wayward bouncer and Babar immediately also picked up a boundary as Karachi cashed in and brought the required run rate below six.
The result was a foregone conclusion by then as Babar then picked on the opposition’s best bowler Shaheen once again for successive boundaries to bring up a fifty. The tournament’s leading run-getter saw three more batsmen departing in quick fashion at the other end but with the damage already being done, Karachi romped home in the penultimate over to lift the title.