LAHORE: Kamran Akmal’s scintillating half century (77 off 27 balls) helped defending champions Peshawar Zalmi humble Karachi Kings by 13 runs in the second eliminator of the Pakistan Super League III before a full house at Gaddafi Stadium here on Wednesday evening. With this triumph, Peshawar qualified for the final to be played against Islamabad United at National Stadium Karachi on March 25 (Sunday). The match’s start was delayed for more than an hour due to rain and a wet outfield. But the ground staff and Pakistan Army helicopter worked diligently to make sure the play was possible. The delay, however, meant that the all-important encounter was reduced to 16 overs per side. Pacer Mohammad Amir led Karachi as Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi were both out injured and Eoin Morgan didn’t travel to Pakistan. Mukhtar Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar and Danish Aziz joined the playing eleven. Peshawar were without opener Tamim Iqbal, who is battling an injury.
Chasing a formidable target of 171, a resilient fight back by the Karachi batsmen was not enough as the team could muster only 157 for the loss of two scalps. Peshawar seamers teamed up in disciplined fashion to ensure Karachi never outpaced them. Hasan Ali, Sameen Gul and Chris Jordan choked the flow of runs at regular intervals to crush any aspirations Karachi might have had of a late flourish. Andre Fletcher was the first to be dismissed after a 30-ball 34. Just as the required run rate loomed bigger than ever, Babar Azam and Joe Denly took charge and nicked some neat boundaries to make for an interesting chase. The duo stitched together a 117-run partnership for the second wicket. Needing 44 off the last two overs, Denly belted out a few big hits to take 16 runs off Hasan in the 15th over. However, 28-run off the last over was always going to be a steep ask, and despite Wahab Riaz beginning with a no ball, Karachi couldn’t cash in. Karachi will likely rue the fact that they could never give their scoring the leg-up it needed despite losing only two wickets in the end. Denly finished unbeaten on 79 of 46 balls, but Azam’s strokeful 45-ball 63 might have proved to be a touch on the slower side.
Earlier, Peshawar posted a towering 170 for the loss of 7 wickets. Karachi bowlers crumbled under pressure as Akmal scored his half-century, the fastest half-century in PSL history. Liam Dawson, who was Peshawar’s highest scorer in the first eliminator against Quetta Gladiators, fell after run-a-ball 13 in an eventual breakthrough for Usman Khan Shinwari, whose nightmare with the ball continued. Skipper Darren Sammy, still struggling with a knee injury, managed 23 runs off 12 balls. Saad Nasim was run out after a sluggish 2 runs, while Wahab was out on golden duck. Ravi Bopara led the wickets tally with 3 for 35. Tymal Mills claimed 2 wickets in return for 23 runs.