Mir repels Afridi heroics to secure win for Karachi
Usama Mir defended 18 off the final over, dismissing Shahid Afridi and Hasan Ali on consecutive balls to seal a nine-run win for Karachi Kings over Peshawar Zalmi
Karachi Kings 174 for 4 (Malik 51*, Babar 46, Iftikhar 2-8) beat Peshawar Zalmi 165 (Afridi 54, Sohail 3-28, Usman 3-32) by nine runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In a nutshell
Karachi Kings fought off a magnificent rearguard from Peshawar Zalmi, spearheaded by Shahid Afridi, to hang on to a game that looked to be slipping away from them. Karachi's 21-year old legspinner Usama Mir held his nerve in a brave final over and was rewarded with two wickets as Peshawar were bowled out with a ball to spare.
Karachi seemed to have the game wrapped up long before when an abysmal batting effort from Darren Sammy's men saw them slip to 69 for 6 in the 12th over chasing a target of 175. That brought Sammy and Afridi to the crease, and what started out as a bit of harmless fun in a losing cause suddenly turned into a serious dogfight. With Kevin Pietersen's heist just a day earlier fresh in the mind, Sammy and Afridi threw caution to the wind, and found what none of the batsmen who came earlier could: the middle of the bat. It deserted Afridi in the final over, though, as he finally top-edged Mir into the sky, and saw Peshawar's hopes float away with it.
It didn't look like Peshawar would have to chase that many, especially when Karachi's innings threatened to unravel after a promising opening partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Babar Azam. A key partnership late on between veterans Ravi Bopara and Shoaib Malik got them back on track, and after Bopara's dismissal, Malik flew through the gears, racing from 16 off 13 to finish unbeaten on 51 from 27 balls. It was just as well for his side, who, incredulously, needed every one of those runs in the end.
Where the match was won
After a 72-run opening partnership for Karachi, Peshawar came back strongly into the contest, taking regular wickets and stifling the run rate. Between overs seven and 15, only 46 runs were scored. But Bopara and Malik, not reputed to be big Twenty20 hitters, came together for a vital 44-run partnership which came off just 27 balls. They executed the basics perfectly, rotating the strike and getting at least a boundary away off each over. Once they had their eye in, they picked the lengths and variations perfectly, both hitting sixes that disappeared out of the stadium, and aborting a Peshawar fightback in its embryonic stages.
The men that won it
There has been plenty of concern that this tournament has not unearthed budding batting talent of the kind Pakistani fans might have hoped for, but Usama Mir is a boy likely to keep legspin alive and well in the country. He has impressed one and all with his ability, his loopy trajectory and sharp turn, but in the final over against Karachi he demonstrated that one trait often even the brightest of talents lack: nerves of steel.
With Afridi looking like rolling back the years and the boisterous Sharjah crowd cheering him every step of the way, Sangakkara looked for someone to bowl the final over with 18 required and Afridi on strike. Mir put his hand up, and dared to bowl classical legspin to an on-fire Afridi. These were not fast, flat, modern legspin deliveries - barring the one that actually went for six - they were flighted above the eye line, challenging Afridi to hit them if he was good enough. He wasn't, but Mir certainly is.
Sohail's maiden over
Sohail Khan, whose 3 for 28 in this match made him the tournament's leading wicket-taker, was instrumental in inflicting the early damage, bowling only the second maiden over in this year's competition. The fifth over saw Sohail bowl a full off-stump line with a ball that was swinging ever so slightly. Eoin Morgan was the recipient and seemed unwilling to do any more than defend all six deliveries as Sohail joined his teammate Mohammad Amir as the only players to have bowled maiden overs this tournament.
Moment of the match
Chris Gayle took a leaf out of Brendon McCullum's book and dropped down the order against Peshawar. He arrived at the start of the tenth over, starting off with a six over long-off, and it looked like a giant was stirring. However, the next heave he attempted was mistimed to long-on and Morgan took a spectacular catch, tossing it back up for himself as he went over the boundary rope. The replays took an age to determine - reluctantly, it seemed - that Morgan had indeed taken a clean catch to remove Gayle for 11 as the Jamaican flattered to deceive once more.
Where they stand
This win, Karachi's second on the bounce, lifts them off the bottom based on their superior net run rate to Lahore Qalanders, now occupy that unwanted fifth spot despite both teams being level on four points. Peshawar Zalmi remain third on five points.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000