Liam Livingstone is not even a particularly well-known name in England, let alone on the global stage. However, Karachi Kings’ newest gun has been firing away from the spotlight for a very long time.
The Lancashire batsman first made headlines in club cricket – playing for a team in the north west of England called Nantwich CC – by smashing a scarcely believable 350 from 138 balls in 2015. Then 21, he had not even made his county debut.
The display included 34 fours and 27 sixes and, while it was not quite a world-record knock, the 579-7 that Nantwich compiled after the regulation 45 overs must have broken an assortment of them. Opposition side Caldy finished a mere 500 runs short.
Unsurprisingly, Livingstone got his shot a mere month later and became an integral part of a Lancashire Lightning side that went all the way in England’s domestic T20 Blast competition. It was not all smooth sailing – he required stitches after being involved in an altercation off the pitch and suffered a first-ball duck at the hands of Shahid Afridi in the final.
However, during the following season he began to establish himself as an all-weather Lancashire player rather than just a T20 tornado. He topped the first-class batting averages for the county in 2016, including a maiden Championship hundred in Taunton, and followed it up with the England Lions in Sri Lanka that winter.
He compiled two hundreds in the subcontinent – one in each innings against Sri Lanka A, the only batsman alongside Kevin Pietersen to do so in 35 years for an England B side. It only served further notice to the England selectors that he is a multi-format player of the future.
England elected to look at him up close during South Africa’s tour of England in 2017. He participated in two T20s and, while he did not make a score of note, went on to score a first-class double hundred against Warwickshire to suggest his trajectory remained on the up.
What goes up must, eventually, come down. His Test dreams looked like they would be fulfilled after being called up for England’s tour of New Zealand, but he went home without a cap and into some strife with Lancashire.
A thumb injury curtailed a disappointing season that saw his personal form suffer (no half-centuries in 10 Championship games) and Lancashire relegated from Division One on his watch, having been appointed captain.
A wicked T20 century against Derbyshire, reaching the ton from 49 balls, was perhaps the only real positive from a season in which he really suffered with that niggling thumb.
Who do Karachi Kings have to thank for taking a chance on Livingstone? None other than Wasim Akram.
As well as being a Pakistan legend, Akram is a hero in Lancashire too after a stellar county career with the club for much of the 1990s. Those connections will have prompted Kings president Akram to have taken a punt on Livingstone during the supplementary PSL draft late last year.
It has immediately paid off. Livingstone even outshone one of international cricket’s top T20 batsman, Babar Azam, in racing to his 82 off just 43 balls in the seven-run victory over Multan Sultans in Dubai on Friday night. His stand of 157 alongside Azam is the biggest-ever in the PSL.
Liam Livingstone had a #HBLPSL debut to remember with a thunderous 43-ball 82 that earned him an eye popping 180 fantasy points and made him the #DotballPerformerOfTheDay #KKvMS pic.twitter.com/Lf5GIJmBGb— Dotball (@dotballglobal) February 16, 2019
The 25-year-old can’t wait to show what he can do in Pakistan, too.
“I do feel that it’s very exciting for the PSL to be going back to Pakistan and yes, I would jump at the opportunity to get out to Pakistan and play in the stadiums in a country where cricket is like a religion,” he was quoted as saying by The Asian Post ahead of the tournament.
Don’t be surprised if he tries his hand at bowling during the tournament – he is a more than handy leg spinner and took 3-24 in a victory over Pakistan A for England Lions last December.
Karachi are not the only sub-continent team to have been alerted to his talents. The IPL’s Rajasthan Royals have a distinctly English feel to their side, and the 2008 champions couldn’t resist recruiting another Englishman to their ranks after shelling out £55,000 for Livingstone back in December.
England regulars Chris Woakes, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan went unsold during the auction but Rajasthan have gone for potential over names to place him alongside countrymen Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, with the tournament fast approaching on March 29.
Rajasthan will certainly feel justified in their selection given Livingstone’s fast start to life in the PSL.
It’s fair to say that Umar Akmal’s career has been up and down so far – but he was on a high in Dubai for Quetta Gladiators on Friday night.
It was a timely reminder of just how good Ukmal – who scored Test and ODI tons as a teenager – can be on his day.
The mercurial big-hitter has not been seen in Pakistan colours since he was dropped from the Champions Trophy squad for failing a fitness test in 2017.
But after watching Umar fire for his side, Sarfraz was quick to give him the seal of approval for a potential return.
“Umar is a talented player and he can always do well for his team. If he continues to play like this, I’m sure he will soon make a comeback,” Sarfraz was quoted as saying by Geo after the game.
'Player of the Match' @Umar96Akmal played an unbeaten innings of 75 runs to propel @TeamQuetta to a 6-wicket win over @PeshawarZalmi— Cricingif (@_cricingif) February 15, 2019
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details 👉 https://t.co/hYpj090J2a #PSL2019 #PZvQG #KhelDeewanoKa #CricketForAll #CaltexPakistan pic.twitter.com/MmCr59VMVK
Friday’s result was some measure of revenge for the Gladiators, who saw their PSL hopes snuffed out in a heart-breaking one-run defeat against Peshawar in last year’s eliminator.
Sarfraz was delighted with the winning start but admitted that ‘at the same time, it is important to keep that momentum’.
He added: “We will try to continue with same momentum and passion in the tournament.”
Quetta next play reigning champions Islamabad United in Dubai on Sunday.
Umar struck an 75 (50) unbeaten containing three sixes and seven boundaries as Quetta chased down Peshawar’s total of 155-4 with two balls to spare.
Having been put into bat first, Kamran Akmal gave Peshawar get an excellent start despite Mohammad Irfan dismissing Andre Fletcher early into the innings.
Kamran’s 49-run (36) was brought to an end by Mohammad Nawaz who also dismissed Kieron Pollard for just three.
However, Misbah-ul-Haq shored up Peshawar’s innings once again in the company of Liam Dawson with the former Islamabad United skipper’s unbeaten 49 (32) helping his side post 155-4.
Hasan Ali then gave Zalmi a roaring start with the ball by dismissing Ahmed Shehzad for a golden duck off the very first delivery of the innings.
Shane Watson and Rilee Rossouw got starts but were unable to push on further before Umar Akmal and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed took control of Quetta’s innings.
Umar brought up his half-century off just 35 deliveries in a controlled innings mixed with equal parts aggression and sensible rotation of the strike.
Sarfraz’s 37-run knock was ended by the excellent Wahab Riaz who finished with figures of 2-18 and in the process became the first bowler to bring up 50 PSL wickets.
Umar, though, continued t march on and finished off the game in the last over with a delightful six off Pollard.
Peshawar Zalmi: 155-4 (20 overs)
Kamran Akmal: 49 (36)
Misbah-ul-Haq: 49 not out (32)
Quetta Gladiators: 161-4 (19.4 overs)
Kamran Akmal: 75 not out (50)
Wahab Riaz: 2-18 (four overs)