By AZ Aamir
KARACHI: Karachi Kings began their title defence in style when they downed former champions Quetta Gladiators by seven wickets in their opener of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021 here at National Stadium on Saturday night.
Pacemen Arshad Iqbal (3-16) and Waqas Maqsood (2-21) bowled well to dismiss Quetta Gladiators for 121 in the 19th over. English batsman Joe Clarke then smashed a rapid 23-ball 46 and Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan hammered explosive 14-ball 30 not out as Karachi Kings achieved the target with 37 balls to spare after losing three wickets.
Defending a low total Quetta Gladiators had a fine start when their young paceman Mohammad Hasnain removed Sharjeel Khan (4) off his fourth ball of the innings, trapped lbw. The left-hander challenged the decision but the review clarified that the ball was hitting the stumps.
Clarke then joined Babar Azam and put to swords Gladiators pacers who mostly bowled short-pitched deliveries. Clarke hit Naseem Shah for three fours and one six in an over, the fourth of the innings, which fetched 19 runs. In the next over he smacked leg-spinner Qais Ahmad of Afghanistan for two sixes and three fours which brought in 27 runs.
However in the next over Usman Shinwari removed Clarke, held in the deep by Azam Khan. Clarke hammered six fours and three sixes in his rapid knock. He dominated the 55-run second wicket stand with Babar Azam which came off 28 balls.
Hasnain then got rid of Babar, held by Sarfraz behind the stumps after he had hit three fours in his 20-ball 24. Kings were 87-3 in the 11th over. However Nabi and South African Colin Ingram (17*) then shared 39 runs for the fourth-wicket unbroken stand to make their team home.
Nabi hit Ben Cutting for three sixes in an over, which also included the winnings six, which fetched 20 runs. Nabi’s innings also carried two fours. Hasnain was the most impressive of bowlers as he captured 2-18 in his quota of four overs.
Earlier after being invited to bat, Quetta Gladiators had a poor start when they lost Tom Banton (5) off the fourth ball of the innings from Imad Wasim. Chris Gayle then joined Sarfraz Ahmad but Aamer Yamin got rid of the latter when he edged a delivery that pitched wide of the off-stumps with keeper Clarke holding it comfortably. Sarfraz, who opened the innings, struck one four from eight balls.
Waqas Maqsood then had debutant Saim Ayub (8) to leave Gladiators reeling at 55-3 in the eighth over. Only Chris Gayle (39) showed some grace on the pitch and managed a few superb strokes. However Gayle was undone by Australia’s medium pacer Daniel Christian when he sliced a delivery square that pitched on the off-stump with Mohammad Amir holding a solid catch at deep backward point.
Gayle struck two sixes and four fours in his 24-ball 39. Gayle hit Aamer Yamin for two sixes in his second and fifth over of the innings which fetched 18 runs. Mohammad Nawaz (3) then got run out thanks to a brilliant return from Christian after Azam sent him back despite having a good chance of a run.
Gladiators were gasping at 76-5 in 11 overs. Arshad then removed Azam when he wanted to pull it, could not time and it went to Daniel Christian at short mid-wicket. Azam hit one six and one four in his 14-ball 17.
Arshad added to Gladiators’ misery when he clean bowled Cutting who made 13-ball 11 with two fours. Amir then had Usman Shinwari (0), Arshad got rid of Mohammad Hasnain (4) and Waqas taking the wicket of Qais Ahmed (16) to fold Gladiators for 121, their lowest total against Kings in the PSL history.
Imad Wasim (1-31), Mohammad Amir (1-14), Aamer Yamin (1-23) and Christian (1-12) were the other wicket-takers. Arshad Iqbal was adjudged as man of the match.