Karachi Kings 152 for 4 (Azam 70*, Hales 49) beat Peshawar Zalmi 151 for 8 (Malik 68, Amir 4-25) by six wickets
The game was preceded by a cryptically morose tweet from the usually convivial Daren Sammy, implying there might be trouble in the paradise that is the relationship between Peshawar Zalmi and their tremendously popular captain. The intrigue intensified when Wahab Riaz showed up to accompany Imad Wasim at the toss, making it clear Sammy wasn't injured, "just resting". But three hours later, the despondency will have spread to the entire camp as they suffered a thrashing at the hands of a resurgent Karachi Kings, with Mohammad Amir's 4 for 25 - and two wickets in the first over - consigning Peshawar to a chastening six-wicket defeat.
Peshawar were on the backfoot from the first ball, literally. Tom Banton was slow with his footwork to an Amir inswinger from over the wicket. The ball thudded into his pads, and a review found it would hit the stumps. Amir would add Haider Ali's wicket to his account two balls later, and Aamer Yamin got rid of Kamran Akmal to leave Peshawar reeling at 10 for 3.
I've learnt that you are important until you've completed your role. #dealingwithhumans— Daren Sammy (@darensammy88) March 2, 2020
They'd manage a revival of sorts, but their glacial pace in the Powerplay meant they were always behind the par score on what looked like a belter of a surface. Shoaib Malik held the innings together, and indeed ensured they got to the 151 they scrambled to by the end with a vital 55-ball 68, but the power hitting that Peshawar required to put up an intimidating total proved beyond him. It was left in parts to Lewis Gregory and Liam Livingstone, but Karachi had two overs of Amir towards the end, and he continued where he'd left off, sending Gregory and Carlos Brathwaite back to the pavilion, while Chris Jordan's priceless consistency in the death ensured Peshawar would not have momentum at the change of innings.
Sharjeel Khan fell to Hasan Ali in the first over of the chase, but any expectations Peshawar may have harboured were ruthlessly crushed with a superb partnership between Alex Hales and Babar Azam, who combined power hitting and sensible batting to forge a 101-run partnership that all but killed the game. There was still time for a mini-wobble and some panic when Peshawar struck twice in an over and Azam survived a devilishly close lbw call. But the three-time finalists had left themselves far too much to do by that point, and in the end, just helplessly watched as Karachi cantered to a win.
A partnership may simply be a term for an accumulation of runs these days, but what Azam and Hales struck up at the start of the Karachi innings was a partnership in more ways than one. The pair have diametrically opposing styles but devastatingly similar end products, and the nuances were on display at Pindi Stadium. Azam's innings took time, and even when he got to his half-century, it took 44 balls. But he remained in full control of both the match situation and the Peshawar bowlers. He would stay for the winning runs, through the little tremor in the middle overs and guide them through it, ending the game in the only way that was fitting, with a majestic late cut past backward point for four.
But he was allowed to be that serene thanks to Hales' more destructive approach, evident when he carted Hasan for four boundaries in his second over, alleviating any concerns the game could end up becoming one of those horrible, low-scoring contests that chasing sides find so difficult to win. It robbed Peshawar of momentum despite their taking an early wicket, and when the Englishman smashed Wahab Riaz for six over backward square in the fifth over, Karachi were galloping. They never looked back, and if they had, they'd find Peshawar were no longer in sight.
Star of the day
Amir is a phenomenal T20 bowler, but let's be honest, nobody cares how good Amir is. You don't go to stadiums to watch Amir be fantastic, you go in the hope of seeing him produce the sort of magical spells he conjures up frustratingly infrequently, the ones that take you back a decade, to a teenage boy with long hair and a face that hadn't seen a razor. That is what the Pindi crowd was treated right from the first over, with Amir charging in, that rhythmic action so pitch-perfect you could set it to music. The ball was delivered with a proud seam - none of that scrambled seam nonsense, and no fingers were rolled over it - and it was full. It moved in the air, it came back into the right-hander. It befuddled Banton. Amir was playing some of his old stuff, and the crowd were on their feet.
Two balls later, Haider was on the receiving end, and Amir managed to top what had happened first ball. He raced in, he pitched it full, landing the ball around off stump. No amount of alert footwork would have kept it out, not that we'd ever know, since Haider didn't try any. The ball would achieve that famous banana swing, and rattle the stumps behind Haider, the sound of timber a nostalgic throwback to a time that, when it comes to Amir, seems long gone. The Amir of 2009-10, of that Asia Cup game in 2016, that Champions Trophy final in 2017, was back for a fleeting opening spell, and a fortuitous Pindi crowd was mesmerised.
Where the teams stand
Three wins in five take Karachi to six points along with Quetta Gladiators. They sit third, just behind the defending champions on net run rate, while Peshawar fall to fifth, having one just two matches in six.