Lahore edge past Karachi despite Sangakarra fireworks
Lahore Qalandars 179 for 8 (Zaman 56, Rizwan 29, Amir 2-30) beat Karachi Kings 172 for 8 (Sangakkara 65, Malik 39, Tanvir 2-30) by seven runs
In a nutshell
Kumar Sangakkara's best form since international retirement wasn't enough to overhaul Lahore Qalandars' top-heavy batting performance in the latter's seven-run win. In an entertaining contest at the Sharjah Stadium, Brendon McCullum's men struggled to deliver a knockout blow to Karachi Kings, which meant the win looked narrower than it actually was. Karachi's chase of 180 looked an uphill battle from the start, with the beleaguered Chris Gayle holing out to long-off in the second over of the chase bowled by Sunil Narine. Karachi's challenge, in truth, lasted for the duration of the 101-run third-wicket partnership between Sangakarra and Shoaib Malik. When the pair fell within five balls of each other, the chase swiftly faded.
Lahore's captain McCullum's lean run also continued, as he dragged a straight delivery on for a second successive duck, but the rest of the batsmen demonstrated that the horror innings against Peshawar Zalmi, where they were bowled out for 59, had not dissuaded them from going for their shots. Fakhar Zaman and Jason Roy shrugged off their captain's departure to plunder 57 runs by the sixth over. Zaman barely noticed Roy's dismissal, or indeed the end of the Powerplay, as he and Umar Akmal continued to swing from the hip. Karachi did not help themselves, dropping a pair of fairly routine catches that would have sent the pair packing earlier. By the end of the 13th over, Lahore were 125 for 4, and looked set for 200, and while they didn't quite manage that, their final score of 179 was good in the end anyway.
Where the match was won
A slow start is often costly in any T20 contest but when chasing 180, it is almost decisive. Gayle looked a tortured shell of his usual self in his seven-ball stay at the crease, and Babar Azam played a lazy shot to gift third man an easy catch. Sangakarra began brightly, his timing as well as placement his vintage majestic self, but with Malik also struggling early on, Karachi only mustered 60 runs in the first nine overs. The innings really only burst into life off the back of a poor tenth over from Bilawal Bhatti, and 53 runs came off the next four overs. But the slow start meant Karachi's asking rate never really came down to a point when the pressure was off, and Sangakarra ultimately fell playing the high-risk cricket that was the only option before the side.
The men that won it
Narine, the bowling equivalent of McCullum in T20s, has lived up to his billing all tournament. He was at his wily, unplayable best today, turning the ball sharply off the Sharjah surface with no batsman seeming to pick him up properly. It appeared that as long as Lahore could turn to him, they were ahead in the game. It helped, of course, that the two wickets he took were of Gayle and Kieron Pollard. The mystery Narine continues to carry in his arsenal was epitomised by Pollard's cluelessness as he played all around an offspinner.
The fielding between the two sides was particularly stark. While Lahore looked sharp and alert under the stewardship of McCullum, taking their catches and hitting the stumps regularly, Karachi were sloppy. Zaman and Akmal had comfortable chances put down - the former, unhelpfully, by Sangakarra - and Karachi regularly struggled to stop ones from turning into twos. Given that the margin of defeat was only seven runs, such sloppiness cost them dear and they can ill-afford such untidiness in the following games if they have to lift themselves from the bottom of the table.
The moment of the match
The abiding memory of this game will undoubtedly be the century stand between Malik and Sangakarra, boasting a combined age of 74. Sangakarra's lofted cover drive, in particular, is a shot worth the clichéd admission fee on its own. On consecutive deliveries off the unfortunate Yasir Shah in the thirteenth over, he showcased both his finesse and destructive power, timing the first over extra cover for four. Yasir went straighter next ball, but was still brave enough to flight the ball generously. Fortune didn't favour him, as Sangakkara slog-swept him - still gracefully, somehow - onto the Sharjah roof. It might not have been decisive, but it was certainly delightful.
Where they stand
Lahore's up-and-down season continues, with McCullum's men managing two wins and two losses. They have four points, and sit fourth in the table on net run rate. Karachi are yet to manage a win in their three games.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000