Heavy rains lashed Lahore four hours before Wednesday’s crucial clash. It reduced PSL 2018’s second eliminator to a 16-over contest on a moisture laden Gaddafi stadium. Then it was Kamran Akmal’s turn to rain on Karachi Kings’ final prospects as he reeled off 77 off 27 – scoring the fastest PSL half-century off 17 balls – to take the defending champions to 170 in the truncated 16-over contest. Akmal biffed eight sixes and five fours, and despite struggling with a hamstring injury, vaulted Peshawar to their second PSL final.
It wasn’t Karachi who had to face the wrath of Akmal’s onslaught. Opening partner Andre Fletcher, who made just six runs off the first dozen deliveries he faced, was walked up and told, in no polite manner, to be smarter with his shot selection. Fletcher repeatedly lost his shape in his attempts to mow the ball towards cow corner. Then after a brief chat, Akmal showed him how it was done.
Off the last over of the powerplay, Akmal plundered 25 overs off Usman Shinwari as the bowler persisted with a curious short-ball ploy with the hope of finding the top-edge. He missed his mark while Akmal hit his, and Peshawar had turned what had been a sedate start into a rollicking one.
The next order of business for Akmal was to maximise the start. When Usama Mir was late cut for four and then slog-swept over mid-wicket off successive deliveries, Akmal had a 17-ball PSL fifty, two balls fewer than it had take Islamabad United’s Luke Ronchi to get to the milestone three days ago. Incidentally, when Zalmi’s opening-wicket stand of 109 was broken, Akmal was batting with a strike-rate of 258. He pushed that to 285 with another six before eventually departing in Ravi Bopara’s double-wicket over.
To their credit, Karachi did really well to recover from a blitz like that and concede just 50 from the final six overs. Bopara finished with three wickets while Tymal Mills and stand-in captain Mohammad Amir – deputising in the absence of Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi – bowled tight spells. A sequence of play that included wickets off three consecutive deliveries kept Karachi in the game, but a target of 171 was always going to be a peak too high to scale in a high-pressure knockout clash.