Karachi Kings v Peshawar Zalmi, PSL 2019, Karachi March 11, 2019

Kamran Akmal, Imam-ul-Haq, Hasan Ali dismantle Karachi Kings

Kamran Akmal celebrates his fifty © Pakistan Super League

Peshawar Zalmi 203 for 7 (Kamran 86, Imam 59, Amir 3-24) beat Karachi Kings 142 (Ingram 71, Imad 30, Hasan 3-15) by 61 runs

How the game played out

There was never likely to be much on the line in this game. A victory for Karachi Kings might have put them level with Peshawar Zalmi on 12 points, but so poor had Kings' net run-rate been, and so healthy was Zalmi's, that Kings would have had to chase down Zalmi's target in 9.1 overs to finish in the top two.

Very quickly, it became apparent that Zalmi were not going to roll over easily. Usman Shinwari had been Kings' hero as he bowled an outstanding final over on Sunday night, but on Monday, it was in his first over that the opposition's charge began. Kamran Akmal struck three fours off that first over - the most attractive of his shots an on-the-up drive to pierce the covers. He and Imam-ul-Haq, who hit three fours himself in the fourth over of the innings, were outstanding in the Powerplay. Together they put on 61 by the end of six overs - Akmal hitting two sixes against spin to make 37 of those runs.

Where Imam slowed down a touch when the field restrictions ended, Akmal's assault maintained its intensity. He was sweeping Umer Khan for six, pummeling Imad Wasim down the ground, and blasting the quicks around the ground as well, though not with quite the same frequency. In the 12th over, bowled by Umer, he hit a four, a six and a four in succession. With Imam (who had earlier been dropped on 32 off Shinwari in the ninth over) also having struck a six before turning the strike over to Akmal, Zalmi plundered 23 off that over. Umer's economy rate lay in tatters - 45 runs given away in three overs.

The partnership - worth 137 in 13.2 overs - was easily Zalmi's best ever opening stand. Akmal was first to go, in what was perhaps the most eventful over of the innings, bowled by Colin Munro. After he had had Akmal caught at extra cover for 86 off 48 balls, including ten fours and five sixes, Munro was monstered for two sixes down the ground by Kieron Pollard. Then, in fifth ball of the over, Pollard tried to hit his third consecutive six and holed out at long-off, leaving Munro to perform celebrations that might have been interpreted as a send-off in international cricket, though the PSL match officials might be a little more lenient. In any case, the over had two sixes and two wickets in the space of four balls.

Having been 150 for 2 after 14 overs, perhaps Zalmi would have wanted a score in the range of 220, rather than the 203 for 7 that they ended up with, but it did not matter that they ran out of steam towards the end of their innings - Mohammad Amir coming back to bowl some excellent overs at the death.

Hasan Ali celebrates a wicket in trademark fashion © PSL

With ball in hand, Zalmi were almost as irresistible as they had been in the batting innings. Hasan Ali and Sameen Gul struck early to leave Kings two down after two overs - Gul removing the dangerous Babar Azam. By the end of the eighth over, Wahab Riaz had struck as well, and the required rate was well over 11.

Colin Ingram produced a sustained assault, hitting 71 off 37 balls in an innings that featured seven fours and four sixes, but he was caught at mid-off off the bowling of Tymal Mills, and Kings' innings unraveled spectacularly from there. Having been 125 for 5 in the middle of the 14th over, they ended being all out in the 17th, with 142 runs on the board. Hasan Ali buttressed his reputation as the league's best bowler with 3 for 15, and now sits two wickets clear of Islamabad United's Faheem Ashraf on the wicket-takers' list, with 21 dismissals to his name.

Turning point

This was basically all one-way traffic, wasn't it? Zalmi made only one run in the first over - bowled by Amir - but reaped 14 in the second to take Kings by the collar, and did not relinquish their grip from there onwards. Zalmi did lose five wickets for 53 runs in the last six overs of their innings, but they had made so much ground earlier on, that theirs was always a commanding match position. When Kings lost their top three inside the first four overs, it was beyond even the considerable powers of Ingram to get them back in the game.

Star of the day

The easy choice would be Kamran Akmal, for his 86 at a strike rate of 179. But almost as impressive was Amir, who even despite Hasan Ali's superior figures, was the best bowler of the evening. Where Hasan Ali had the benefit of scoreboard pressure, Amir was the talisman in Kings' misfiring attack, taking 3 for 24 from his four overs. It was his last two overs that helped restrict Zalmi, and prevented the opposition from turning their outstanding total into a truly gargantuan one.

The big miss

Perhaps it would not have made a huge difference to the outcome, but had a diving Liam Livingstone held on to a tough catch off Imam in the ninth over, they would have dented that wonderful opening stand. Imam went on to add 27 more runs, finishing on 59 off 40 balls.

Where the teams stand

Zalmi have cemented their place in Wednesday's qualifier against Quetta Gladiators. In fact, so comprehensive was this win, that Zalmi actually finished the league stage top of the table with 14 points, which is the same as Gladiators, only Zalmi have a superior net run-rate.

Kings, who had confirmed their presence in the play-offs with that sensational win over Gladiators on Sunday night, will play the first eliminator, against Islamabad United on Thursday. The winner of the eliminator, and the loser of the Gladiators v Zalmi qualifier, will then play what is effectively a semi-final on Friday. The winner of the Gladiators v Zalmi game goes straight through to the final.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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