Babar Azam took his excellent form in international cricket to the Pakistan Super League as he hit a fine 77 from just 59 balls batting for Karachi Kings against Multan Sultans in Dubai on Friday.
Babar opened the innings with Liam Livingstone – who was making his PSL debut – and added 157 first the first wicket.
It looked like Karachi would definitely cross the 200-run mark but Multan hit back in the death overs, going for just about six an over to restrict Karachi to 183-6.
Nevertheless, Babar showed why he is not only the best batsman in Pakistan but also one of the premier all-format batsmen in the world. During his innings, Babar also crossed the 3,000 run mark in T20 matches.
He thus became the fastest Pakistan batsman to the mark in T20 cricket, reaching there in 92 innings. He is the fourth fastest overall, behind Shaun Marsh (85 innings), Chris Gayle (87) and Aaron Finch (90). Here we take a closer look at his innings.
Balls faced: 59
Strike rate: 130.5
Babar is at ease in all formats and conditions but its T20s where he truly blossoms. He first took charge against experienced quick Junaid Khan before Livingstone took over the hitting duties. A perfectly synchronised opening partnership that deserved a century for both.
Babar paced the innings perfectly. After nine overs, he was on 40 and Livingstone on 37 but he pulled back once the latter upped the ante. The wicket wasn’t the easiest one but such is Babar’s form that he was able to maneuver the ball effortlessly.
Finishing. That’s the issue that plagued him the South Africa series, where he smashed 90 chasing 189 in the second T20 but still ended up the losing side. In Dubai, his inability to stay until the end meant Karachi finished well below the 200-run mark.
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Defending champions Islamabad United got off to a great start in the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League, rallying twice against Lahore Qalandars to prevail by five wickets on Thursday.
Lahore got off to a blazing start, with Fakhar Zaman powering the team to 97 in the 11th over. But Islamabad pulled things back to restrict the Qalandars to 171-8.
Then while chasing, Islamabad lost three wickets to left-arm seamer Rahat Ali in the sixth over before a counter-attacking 36 off 19 balls from Asif Ali and 23 off 11 balls from Faheem Ashraf sealed victory.
It was an early glimpse of why Islamabad have been the most consistent team in PSL across seasons.
The opening match also showed fans why the Pakistan establishment has invested so much time in Ali in international cricket. The hard-hitting batsman showed he can prove to be the deciding factor in white-ball cricket in the lower order and if he continues his form this PSL, a more permanent spot in the senior team during the World Cup in England won’t be too far off.
Islamabad get one day’s rest before they take on Multan Sultans – who will be playing their second match in as many days – in Dubai on Saturday.
Multan need a monumental improvement in their bowling plans after they were blasted around the park by Karachi Kings openers on Friday before finding the radar in the final five overs.
However, Multan’s left-arm quicks Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan are experienced enough to ensure Friday was just an off day.
Islamabad are unlikely to change a winning combination. Almost all bowlers – apart from captain Mohammad Sami – did well while all-rounder Hussain Talat will want to forget the first game where be bled 20 runs in one over. Islamabad have more than enough bowling options.
Multan, meanwhile, need a lot more control and should bring in Mohammad Abbas in place of the hugely expensive Mohammad Illyas. They also left an over each from Andre Russell and Shahid Afridi unused, which wasn’t smart captaincy from Shoaib Malik.
Islamabad United: Luke Ronchi (wk), Rizwan Hussain, Cameron Delport, Phil Salt, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Samit Patel, Mohammad Sami (c), Waqas Maqsood
Multan Sultans: Shoaib Malik (c), Shahid Afridi, Shan Masood, Laurie Evans, Andre Russell, CJ Green, Hammad Azam, TJ Moores (wk), Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Abbas
Match starts 15:30 UAE time
Pakistan and Islamabad United all-rounder Faheem Ashraf answered his critics – especially online trolls – in great style after a match-winning effort in the opening clash of PSL 2019.
Ashraf has been under the scanner for some time as questions have been raised about his exact role. Ashraf was not picked for the first two Test during the recent tour of South Africa but when he was selected for the third, picked up six wickets. He played two ODIs and as many T20, hitting some form in the third and final T20.
However his all-round skills are still the target of many critics. On Thursday, Ashraf chose the perfect way to silence his critics as he starred with the ball and bat to lead Islamabad to a fine win over Lahore Qalandars.
Batting first, Lahore seemed set for a score of around 200 after a blazing start by Fakhar Zaman but Ashraf put brakes on the scoring, giving away just 24 runs in his four overs and picking up the wickets of opener Sohail Akhtar and the dangerous Carlos Brathwaite.
In the chase, Islamabad were rocked early with left-arm seamer Rahat Ali picking up three wickets in the sixth over. But counter-attacking knocks by Asif Ali (36* off 19 balls) and Ashraf (23* off 11) took them to the target of 172 with five wickets in hand.
After the match, Ashraf said he learned a lot during the difficult tour of South Africa: ” Cricket is not easy. It was a difficult tour of South Africa but it was a learning curve. I got to work on my batting and bowling.”
He then took to social media and used an image of him – which had been altered with the words ‘Can’t bat can’t bowl too’ on his shirt – with the following message: “Terrific win. Really happy to contribute with both bat and ball. It was a team effort, thank you everyone for your support.”