Dubai: Babar Azam, who held the world No.1 ranking among T20 batsmen for long, showed why he is regarded in such high esteem in world cricket today - often drawing comparisons with the Indian captain and run machine Virat Kohli. A classy, unbeaten 63 off 49 balls by Azam made light of their modest target of 135 as Karachi Kings cruised past Lahore Qalandars by five wickets to win their first Pakistan Super League crown on Tuesday.
The success fittingly came at their home, National Stadium, which witnessed a somewhat one-sided contest between Karachi and Lahore - cities with a legacy of bitter cricketing rivalry over the decades. Lahore skipper Sohail Akhtar called correctly and decided to bat but managed a below-par total of 134 for seven, which hardly posed any problems for the Karachi side - despite losing a couple of quick wickets with the victory in sight.
The ‘Kings’ would be happy to win this one for the memory of Dean Jones, their coach who passed away in Mumbai in September. Jones, who guided the team to play-offs when the PSL had to be called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March, has now coached a PSL team that has won the tournament in 2016, 2018 and now 2020.
Azam made his intent clear from the start - first caressing Shaheen Afridi through the extra cover for a four and then pulling his Pakistan teammate in the same over. He carried his bat right through the innings, with the most profitable 61-run partnership coming in third wicket with wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton.
It was an insipid batting performance from Lahore earlier, who failed to captalise on a steady start given by their experienced opening pair of southpaws Tamim Iqbal of Bangladesh and Fakhar Zaman. Iqbal was the first to go with the team’s score at 68 when he was caught by Umaid Asif for nearly a run-a-ball 35, topscoring with four boundaries and a six. Zaman fell soon after to the same combination and the team could not quite rebuild from the twin blows.
Mohammad Hafeez, former Pakistan captain who came in at No.3, was bowled by Imad Wasim for two and Lahore kept on losing wickets at regular intervals - former England allrounder Samit Patel following soon. David Weise, the hulk of South African allrounder who played a stellar role in guiding Lahore past Multan Sultans to the final, stayed unbeaten on 14 but the total looked below par.
Karachi, who had a two-day break as they qualified for the final with a Super Over win against Multan on Saturday, were disciplined in their attack - with the likes of Umaid Asif (2/18), Arshad Iqbal (2/10) and Waqas Maqsood (2/18) more than making up for their star paceman Mohammad Amir going wicketless on Tuesday. Amir, hero of their Eliminator win, finished with figures of 4-0-38-0.
While Lahore went in with an unchanged side from their previous game, Karachi made one change, bringing in local talent Umaid Asif in place of South African Wayne Parnell. The Karachi franchise, hence, fielded just three overseas players for the first time in the league this year.
Brief Scores: Lahore Qalandars 134/7 off 20 overs (T.Iqbal 35; W.Maqsood 2/18, A.Iqbal 2/10, U.Asif 2/18) vs Karachi Kings 135/5 off 18.4 overs (B.Azam 63 n.o.; C.Dalton). Karachi Kings won by five wickets.