Karachi Kings knocked out as Zazai’s blitz takes Peshawar Zalmi into Eliminator 2


Zazai’s 77 gave Zalmi’s middle-order enough of a buffer to see off a tricky chase

Peshawar Zalmi 176 for 5 (Zazai 77, Perera 2-10) beat Karachi Kings 175 for 7 (Babar 53, Irfan 2-21) by five wickets

Karachi Kings batted first, setting Peshawar Zalmi a chase, a target that Hazratullah Zazai seemed to made a mockery of in the first ten overs. No, this isn’t the match report from this game a week ago; it’s just that Zazai doubled up, following that astonishing innings with an even more explosive one. He hit 77 off 37 balls and set Zalmi up comfortably for a chase of 176, and even though Zalmi made harder work of that than they needed to, the Afghan batter had set them enough of a buffer to get over the line in the end.

Zalmi might not have expected to chase such a steep total after they kept a lid on the Kings for much of the first innings. Mohammad Irfan, the 39-year old, was sensationally disciplined with the ball during his quota of four, allowing just 21 runs, exactly as many as he did in that game against the Kings last week. This time, however, he was also more incisive, picking up the wickets of Sharjeel Khan and Danish Aziz as Zalmi chipped away at the power hitters around Babar Azam, who could do little more than anchor an innings that was going awry.

When Wahab Riaz accounted for him, Azam had scored another half-century, but the rate of accumulation continues to be a concern, especially when the big hitters don’t come off. Thisara Perera ameliorated that situation somewhat with an entertaining cameo, taking apart spinner Khalid Usman in an innings where he struck at over 200. But there was limited support; Riaz returned to clean up Chadwick Walton before he could get going, and even though the final five overs yielded 70, there was always the sense the Kings had left themselves too much to do in the second innings.

Zazai was striking the balls with such devastating power that Kamran Akmal, and later Imam-ul-Haq, were simply content to turn the strike over to the Afghan and enjoy the fireworks from the best seat in the house. Kings looked especially out of ideas while Zazai was on strike, but Imam struggled to take any pressure off his partner, scoring just 11 off the 17 he faced. When Zazai holed out, there was still concern that the 73 they still needed would prove tricky.

Which is exactly what it proved. Shoaib Malik steadied things through a mature 52-run stand with Khalid Usman, but they hadn’t quite got on top of the asking rate, even if they were never behind in the game. In the final over, Sherfane Rutherford curiously decided to attack every delivery as if they needed to chase 27 instead of seven, but woeful fielding by Kings meant they shot themselves in the foot. The West Indian was dropped off the first and fifth ball of the 20th over, and as Imad Wasim’s tears flowed, the team in yellow stayed alive in the tournament.

Zazai sends Karachi Kings bowlers ducking for cover

The first five overs of the second innings saw five different Kings’ bowlers, and could you blame them? With Zazai at the crease and in that sort of destructive, few would like have wanted the ball in their hands, especially after he smashed their best bowler Mohammad Amir for a disdainful six the first ball he faced off him. That over went for 14 and Imad Wasim promptly took himself out of the attack. Mohammad Ilyas and Arshad Iqbal bowled the next two, and after the spanking they took, it was left to poor teenager Noor Ahmed to send down the fifth.

He ended up getting rid of Akmal, but Zazai had only just begun. Wasim didn’t come on until after the powerplay but still went for two fours and a six at the Afghan’s hands, and even Noor wasn’t spared as Zazai brought up a 23-ball half-century. The ball off his bat sounded like gunshots going off, and every fatal blow drove one more nail into the Kings’ coffin. By the time he was done, he had seared through most of the target; Malik and the rest read out the last rites.

Death-overs woe

Zalmi dominated the first innings, and yet when the two sides walked off the field at the halfway mark, the body language was dejected and downcast, while the Kings batters strode off with grins on their faces. The dynamic of the contest had shifted after the first 15 overs, during which Zalmi almost had things entirely their own way. Kings had only succeeded in hobbling to 105, having just lost Azam, who struggled to move through the gears in a stuttering 45-ball 53.

One notable exception: Thisara Perera. The Sri Lankan left-hander loves left-arm spin coming into him, and that was just what Usman provided. Two fours were followed by two sixes off Usman’s final four balls as Perera plundered 22 off the over, and the shackles were broken thereafter. He made a priceless 37 off 18. Wasim took the baton and ran with it, clobbering Asif for 18 off the penultimate over. By the end, the Kings had somehow found their way to 175, having smashed a staggering 70 off the final five. At that stage, it seemed as if it might be enough, and but for Zazai, it would have been.

Where they stand

Defending champions Kings are eliminated, while Zalmi will vie for a spot in the final with Islamabad United on Tuesday. The winner of that game faces Multan Sultans in the final.

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

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