Karachi Kings knocked out as Zazai's blitz takes Peshawar Zalmi into Eliminator 2
Zazai's 77 gave Zalmi's middle-order enough of a buffer to see off a tricky chase
Peshawar Zalmi 176 for 5 (Zazai 77, Perera 2-10) beat Karachi Kings 175 for 7 (Babar 53, Irfan 2-21) by five wickets
The Karachi Kings batted first, setting the Peshawar Zalmi a chase of 176, a target that Hazratullah Zazai seemed to made a mockery of in the first ten overs. That sounds like the match report from this game a week ago; it's just that Zazai has followed up that astonishing 26-ball 63 with an even more explosive innings - 77 in 37 balls, and set the Zalmi up comfortably, and even though they made it look harder than they needed to, there was enough of a buffer to get them over the line in the end.
The Zalmi might not have expected to chase such a steep total after they kept a lid on the Kings for much of the first innings. Mohammad Irfan, the 39-year-old, was disciplined during his quota of four overs, allowing just 21 runs, exactly as many as he did in that game last week. This time, however, he was also more incisive, picking up the wickets of Sharjeel Khan and Danish Aziz as the Zalmi chipped away at the power-hitters around Babar Azam, who could do little more than anchor an innings that was going awry.
When Wahab Riaz accounted for him, Azam had scored another half-century, but his rate of accumulation continued to be a concern, especially when the big-hitters don't come off. Thisara Perera ameliorated that somewhat with an entertaining cameo, taking apart spinner Khalid Usman in an innings where he struck at over 200. But there was limited support; Riaz returned to clean up Chadwick Walton before he could get going, and even though the final five overs yielded 70, there was always the sense that the Kings had left themselves too much to do in the second innings.
Zazai was striking with such devastating power that Kamran Akmal, and later Imam-ul-Haq, were simply content to turn the strike over to him and enjoy the fireworks from the best seat in the house. The Kings looked especially out of ideas while Zazai was on strike, but Imam struggled to take any pressure off his partner, scoring just 11 off the 17 he faced. When Zazai holed out, there was a concern that the 73 they still needed would prove tricky.
Which is exactly what happened. Shoaib Malik steadied things through a mature 52-run stand with Khalid Usman, but they hadn't quite got on top of the asking rate, even if they were never behind in the game. In the final over, Sherfane Rutherford decided to attack every delivery as if they needed to chase 27 instead of seven, but woeful fielding by the Kings helped the Zalmi. Rutherford was dropped off the first and fifth balls of the 20th over, and the team in yellow stayed alive in the tournament.
Zazai sends Karachi Kings bowlers ducking for cover
The first five overs of the chase saw five different Kings bowlers, and who can blame them? With Zazai at the crease and in that sort of mood, few would like have wanted the ball in their hands, especially after he smashed their best bowler, Mohammad Amir, for a disdainful six the first ball he faced off him. That over went for 14 and Wasim promptly took himself out of the attack. Mohammad Ilyas and Arshad Iqbal bowled the next two, and after the spanking they got, it was left to poor teenager Noor Ahmad to send down the fifth.
He ended up getting rid of Akmal, but Zazai had only just begun. Wasim didn't come on until after the powerplay, but still went for two fours and a six at Zazai's hands, and even Ahmad wasn't spared as Zazai brought up a 23-ball half-century. The ball pinging off his bat sounded like gunshots going off, and every blow drove one more nail into the Kings' coffin. By the time he was done, he had seared through most of the target; Malik and the rest read out the last rites.
The Zalmi dominated the first innings, and yet when the two sides walked off the field at the halfway mark, their body language was dejected and downcast, while the Kings' batters strode off with grins on their faces. The dynamic of the contest had shifted after the first 15 overs, during which the Zalmi almost had things going their own way. The Kings had only succeeded in hobbling to 105, having just lost Azam Khan, who struggled to move through the gears in a stuttering 45-ball 53.
One notable exception: Thisara Perera. The Sri Lankan left-hander loves left-arm spin coming into him, and that was just what Usman provided. Two fours were followed by two sixes off Usman's final four balls as Perera plundered 22 off the over, and the shackles were broken thereafter. He made 37 off 18. Wasim took the baton and ran with it, clobbering Asif for 18 off the penultimate over. By the end, the Kings had somehow found their way to 175. At that stage, it seemed as if it might be enough, and but for Zazai, it might have been.
Where they stand
The Kings, the defending champions, are eliminated, while the Zalmi will vie for a spot in the final with the Islamabad United on Tuesday. The winners of that game face the Multan Sultans in the final.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000