Islamabad have defeated Karachi in both of their previous two PSL 2019 encounters. — PSL
Defending champions Islamabad United take on hometown favourites Karachi Kings tonight in the first Eliminator of Pakistan Super League 2019 at the National Stadium Karachi.
The equation is simple for both the sides: win or go home, which for the Kings only hold proverbial value as they are already in their home city.
However, it remains to be seen if home turf would actually net the Kings any tangible advantage because it probably didn't in their slim, one-run win over Quetta last week and certainly didn't in the 61-run drubbing they suffered at the hands of Peshawar Zalmi the next game.
Head to head
During the group stages, both Islamabad and Karachi won five games each and were solidly average. They were better than the bottom two but not quite as good as the top two.
While that piece of stat insinuates some parity between the two sides, the head-to-head comparison somewhat deflates the notion.
Islamabad won both the league fixtures against Karachi in the group stages, although in Karachi's defence, both the games went down to the wire.
Overall, the two sides have faced each other 11 times across the four PSL tournaments, with Islamabad winning seven and Karachi four. Moreover, United are riding a three-match winning streak against the Kings dating back to last year's tournament.
The Danger men
Luke Ronchi has not matched his scintillating form of 2018 form this year but he can still come do a job. The NSK boundaries have been extended but if Ronchi gets going, he can easily clear any boundary no matter how far.
Trouble for the Kings is that they won't have to just look out for Ronchi. His strike partner Cameron Delport also was in devastating form last time out, smashing an unbeaten 60-ball 117. The salvo provided by the foreigners up top is usually supplemented by late blitz from local talent Asif Ali, which gives the bowling side almost no time to relax.
Karachi's hopes from a batting standpoint are affixed to Babar Azam and Colin Ingram. Azam hasn't quite clicked in PSL 2019 the way the Kings hoped he would but still remains a threat. Ingram's wrecking act against the Gladiators in Sharjah was possibly the knock of the entire tournament. If he gets going, United could be in trouble.
On the bowling front, Usman Shinwari could be pivotal to Karachi's hopes, if he gets the nod. He has a tendency to blow hot and cold, and as leaky as he can be when he's cold, he can also pick wickets in bunches when hot.
Hales, Asif see Islamabad through, Karachi Kings eliminated
Muhammad Musa celebrates a wicket Pakistan Super League
Mar 14, 2019
Islamabad United 164 for 6 (Hales 41, Delport 38, Talat 32, Asif 24*, Umer 2-16) beat Karachi Kings 161 for 9 (Babar 42, Munro 32, Musa 3-42, Faheem 2-30) by 4 wickets
How the game played out
Karachi Kings may be one of the less prolific sides in this competition's brief history, but they are the only side to have knocked Islamabad United out of any PSL tournament. That victory came in an Eliminator two years ago. But today, Islamabad United avenged that loss in a scrappy, entertaining game where both sides chugged along like an antique car on a dodgy engine, hurtling along seemingly without control before grinding to a halt at various stages of their innings. The upshot was a four-wicket win for Islamabad, who chased down Karachi's 161 with three balls to spare.
Despite the loss, the most memorable part of the game was arguably the first six overs. Karachi had courageously won the toss and chosen to bat first in a tournament where that decision is close to sacrilege, and blistered to 50 in just 20 balls as Colin Munro finally began to make good on the talent based on which he was signed. When he feathered an edge to Mohammad Musa, he had smashed 32 runs in a mere 11 balls, and Karachi were motoring along at 17 an over. They would go on to add an eye-watering 78 in the first six, as the boundaries flew like confetti.
Islamabad came back to choke them after the Powerplay ended, and somehow maintained that stranglehold right throughout the innings, with Karachi only just managing to double their Powerplay total, in the end limping to 161 for nine. Most of Islamabad's bowlers had recovered their figures, and the one who was most expensive - Muhammad Musa - was the highest wicket-taker, having removed Munro, Ingram and Iftikhar Ahmed.
Islamabad's chase always looked tight, not helped by a slow start and Ronchi's early departure. Alex Hales and Cameron Delport saw them through the Powerplay, but the nerves wouldn't have been eased as the asking rate continued to rise in the face of a stellar bowling attack and a world-class spell from Umer Khan. Towards the end, it came down to Islamabad's own local talent in Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali and Hussain Talat to manage the asking rate. Mohammad Amir missed his lines once too often, Babar Azam dropped a catch once too frequently and Karachi were simply a few too short in the final overs. It all amounted to Islamabad getting to the finish line just in time, dashing Karachi's hopes of a title on home soil.
Karachi began to struggle as soon as that whirlwind of a Powerplay came to a close, but the final three overs were especially ruinous to their chances. Positioned at 150 for six with three overs to go, they still had the opportunity to pose a stiff challenge with a brisk finish. Instead, the last three overs saw a mere 11 runs scored.
Star of the day
Pakistan have swooned over the fast bowling gems they may have unearthed this tournament, and bemoaned the lack of exciting local batsmen. But the find of the competition may be 19-year old Umer Khan, perhaps the most promising spinner to come out of the PSL since Shadab Khan. Having impressed ever since he got AB de Villiers out weeks ago, Umer has found a way to get the biggest names of the planet out just when Karachi have required him to. His spell today was one of the spells of the tournament, with the teenager the only bowler to find genuine drift and turn on a flat wicket. He wasn't afraid of flighting the ball, and found due rewards, finding the outside edges of Delport and Chadwick Walton within three deliveries of each other. He ended up with 4-0-16-2, and if ever a performance deserved not to end up in the losing side, it was his.
The big miss
Ronchi has the highest strike rate in the world off the first 10 balls, but the New Zealand opener was strangely subdued over that period today. Valued around the world because he doesn't need so much as a warm-up ball to begin attacking the bowlers, Ronchi played out nine deliveries today, unable to get one to the boundary rope. Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir and Aamer Yamin all executed their plans perfectly, pitching the ball short of a length. It deprived Ronchi of the ability to strike the ball through the line. The change-up came off his ninth ball, with Yamin sending down a wide yorker that Ronchi could only mishit to mid-on. 5 off 9 is an unlikely innings breakdown for the Islamabad talisman, and in a game of exceptionally fine margins, they almost ended up paying for it.
Karachi bow out with today's defeat, with Islamabad through to the playoff with Peshawar tomorrow. The winner of that contest plays Quetta Gladiators in the final.
Players and match officials gather around to observe a minute of silence for the victims of the terror attack in New Zealand on March 15, 2019. — PCB
The Pakistan Cricket Board on Friday expressed shock and grief over the terror attacks on New Zealand's Christchurch mosques ahead of Friday prayers and announced that all players and match officials shall sport black armbands in the Pakistan Super League fixture today in a show of support for affected families.
A minute of silence was also observed prior to the start of the match.
“As a mark of respect for the victims and to show support and solidarity with the New Zealand community and the NZC [New Zealand Cricket Team], it has been decided that we will observe a minute’s silence before the start of tonight’s HBL Pakistan Super League match, while all the players and match officials will wear black armbands,” said a statement issued by the PCB.
PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani, in the statement, said: “On behalf of the Pakistan cricket fraternity, I would like to condemn in the strongest possible way the cowardly, uncivilised and inhuman terrorist attacks on the innocent worshippers in Christchurch mosques.
“Our hearts go out [to] all those affected by this tragedy as who will feel and understand their pain and loss better than us. In these difficult times, we also stand firmly with our colleagues in New Zealand Cricket and offer our deepest condolences.
The PCB chairman also expressed relief that the Bangladesh cricket team escaped the incident unharmed.
“We are also aware that the Bangladesh men’s cricket team were also praying at a mosque near the Hagley Park. We thank God Almighty that all of them escaped unhurt," he said.