Multan Sultans 186 for 6 (Moeen 65, Masood 61, Amir 2-27) beat Karachi Kings 134 (Hales 29, Tahir 3-28, Tanvir 2-20) by 52 runs
It is a carnival of cricket this week in Multan, and having bought a ticket, the home side Multan Sultans are in no mood to leave just yet. Having swept aside Peshawar Zalmi a couple of days ago in front of a packed home crowd, Karachi Kings were consigned to a similar fate on a Friday afternoon where the ground seemed to have filled up before a ball was even bowled. Half-centuries from Player-of-the-Match Moeen Ali and Shan Masood, two men they would have banked on but have failed until today to produce significant performances, came to the party together with devastating effectiveness, overwhelming Karachi Kings by 52 runs, who were bowled out inside 17 overs, chasing 187.
Masood struggled for fluency in the first half of the innings, at one stage having only limped along to 12 off 19 balls, but once he cut Cameron Delport for a pair of fours on the off side, he shot straight from first gear to fifth. He would score a whopping 49 off his last 23 balls, while Moeen took the pressure off while Masood searched for rhythm, when he dispatched Iftikhar Ahmed for 21 runs in an over on his way to a 42-ball 65.
Questions could be raised of Imad Wasim's captaincy when Karachi bowled, with Umer Khan, who topped the wicket charts for the franchise last season, not bowling at all, while Imad himself bowled just one over. That quota was filled by Cameron Delport and Iftikhar Ahmed, who went for a combined 79 in their seven. The reason might lie in Imad's belief both himself and Umer Khan are best suited to bowl at right handers and Multan went with four left-handers at the top, but if he believed Delport and Iftikhar were better suited to turn their arms over instead, their figures comprehensively suggested otherwise.
Karachi's chase started well with Sharjeel Khan spanking Mohammad Irfan for a six and a four in the first over, but would fall in the second to Moeen for a nine-ball 16. It was a theme that continued to repeat itself throughout the Karachi innings, with too many batsman producing cameos and none managing to kick on and provide a sustained challenge. Alex Hales and Babar Azam got Karachi beyond 40 in four overs, but once Hales sliced Afridi to point, Karachi slumped. Four wickets fell for 21 runs as the middle order folded with little resistance, and when Iftikhar Ahmed and Umaid Asif landed some late blows, they were merely adding respectability to what was by then a certain defeat.
The dismissal of Hales in the eighth over will most likely be looked at as the sliding-doors moment of this game. Until then, Karachi had managed a respectable enough start, recovering well from the early losses of Sharjeel and Babar. Hales looked like he was returning to his best form, with 25 off his first dozen balls, which included four fours and a six. Karachi were 64 for 2 in seven, well ahead of Multan and keeping up with the asking rate. But when a soft dismissal forced him to leave, carnage erupted. Tahir snared Delport two balls later, and Afridi struck to remove Imad in the next over. Sixty-six for 2 quickly became 87 for 6, and Karachi's fate looked sealed.
Innings, not starts
T20 cricket may prioritise quick scoring over run accumulation, but this was a reminder that batsmen have more time in the format than they realise. Moeen and Masood both failed to get out of the blocks quickly, and at the time,it looked like Multan's momentum was coming to a screeching half. However, once they got their eyes in on the pitch, both found themselves able to score at a rate that would be the envy of the most free-scoring batsmen in the format. Masood smashed nearly 50 off his last 23, and Moeen 51 off his final 26 balls. But early on, neither batsman was close to scoring at a run-a-ball. In the final analysis, both faced 42 deliveries, with Moeen scoring 65 and Masood 61.
By contrast, Hales' 21 was the highest number of balls any Karachi Kings batsman managed to stay at the crease for, with no one managing to score more than his 29. No fewer than five batsman fell between 13 and 20, and while all but No.s 10 and 11 struck at least one boundary, it was telling that Hales aside, no one managed more than three. Where Multan had constructed an innings, Karachi's innings read like an accumulation of slapdash, ephemeral cameos.
Where the teams stand
Karachi slip to fourth with just one win in three, and sit above Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi on two points. Multan move to the top of the table with three wins in four matches, supplanting Quetta Gladiators on net run-rate.