Dubai: Iftikhar Ahmad is known for his ability to produce match-winning all-round performances in first-class cricket.
Time and again he has surprised opponents in Pakistan’s domestic cricket.
On Friday night, the 28-year-old shocked Lahore Qalandars with an all-round show of two quick wickets followed by an unbeaten 33 to ensure Karachi Kings a five-wicket victory.
Ignored for international cricket since 2016 and getting to play only one Test match, two ODIs and one T20 match, Iftikhar handled the pressure of a tough chase after his team had slipped to 108-5 in 16.5 overs chasing a target of 134 to win.
It was a hard-fought victory for Karachi as they won the match with just five balls to spare and keep alive their hopes of a place in the play-offs.
When asked about how he keeps producing match-winning performances, Iftikhar said: “I work very hard on my bowling. I also focus a lot on my batting and hence overall my cricket has improved.”
Karachi skipper Imad Wasim is delighted that Iftikhar’s inclusion had its impact. “He plays along with me in domestic cricket and so I included him. He bowls really good off-spin and all batsmen have found it really difficult to read him. We bowled well and restricted them so it was good.”
Wasim revealed that the wicket wasn’t an easy one to bat on. “It was a bit difficult. Last match the ball wasn’t gripping but in this match it was different. I told my bowlers to focus on cutters and produce the variations like slow and fast (deliveries). It was brilliant execution by my bowlers. (Mohammad) Amir taking AB De Villiers’ wicket and others chipping in was good. Young Umer (Khan) is a fantastic cricketer.”
Fakhar Zaman, who had captained Lahore in this match instead of stand-in captain De Villiers, said: “ We did not post enough runs and their bowlers bowled really well. Our top order should have batted longer but that did not happen. In cricket such things happen. Our squad is new and our players are only beginning to gel together now. Hopefully we will do better in the next match.”
Incidentally, Lahore’s star player De Villiers will return to South Africa. “De Villiers contract was to play seven matches in the UAE which he has honoured. On request from PCB and Lahore he has agreed to play two matches in Lahore. He will be back in Lahore as agreed,” said Sameen Rana, Chief Operating Officer of the Lahore team.
Karachi Kings bt Lahore Qalandars by 5 wkts
Lahore Qalandars 133-5 (20 overs): De Villiers 33, Akhtar 29n.o; Iftikhar 2-4
Karachi Kings 134-5 (19.1 overs): Livingstone 38, Iftikhar 33n.o; Lamichhane 2-17