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Danish Aziz's 13-ball 45 helps seal qualification for Karachi Kings

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Published in Cricket
Saturday, 19 June 2021 10:40
Karachi Kings 176 for 7 (Danish 45, Sharjeel 45, Arish 4-28) beat Quetta Gladiators 162 for 6 (Sarfraz 51*, Ilyas 3-39, Arshad 2-39) by 14 runs
Karachi Kings completed the win they needed to make it to the qualifiers, edging Lahore Qalandars on net run-rate after they swept Quetta Gladiators aside by 14 runs on the last day of the group stage. After putting up 176, the Kings needed to defend 32 off the last over with Jack Wildermuth on strike; a delicious bit of symmetry after Danish Aziz had smoked 32 off the bowler during their batting innings - in a 33-run over - to completely change the course of the game. That blitz, a 13-ball 45, propelled the Kings to a total that was too much for the Gladiators, who finished the season with only two wins in ten games.
Naseem goes off, Danish goes boom
After taking the ball to start the 19th over, the Gladiators' Naseem Shah began hobbling immediately. He could barely get a few steps into his run-up, possibly because of cramp on a hot day, and the ball eventually went to Wildermuth, who had struggled early on and struggled once again.
Danish, who got an inside edge for four first ball, took complete control - hitting the next four balls for six. The last of them came off a slower-ball-turned-beamer as Danish managed to hoick it over the long leg boundary. It was 29 off four balls at the point, and suddenly there was a very real possibility of six sixes in a row, not to mention an over going for 41 runs. Wildermuth might have been pleased those deliveries ended up going for only four. But the match had swung - 136 for 5 in 18 overs became 176 for 6 in 20.
Naseem goes off, Danish goes boom
After taking the ball to start the 19th over, the Gladiators' Naseem Shah began hobbling immediately. He could barely get a few steps into his run-up, possibly because of cramp on a hot day, and the ball eventually went to Wildermuth, who had struggled early on and struggled once again.
Danish, who got an inside edge for four first ball, took complete control - hitting the next four balls for six. The last of them came off a slower-ball-turned-beamer as Danish managed to hoick it over the long leg boundary. It was 29 off four balls at the point, and suddenly there was a very real possibility of six sixes in a row, not to mention an over going for 41 runs. Wildermuth might have been pleased those deliveries ended up going for only four. But the match had swung - 136 for 5 in 18 overs became 176 for 6 in 20.
A chase that never took off
The Kings began their defence with captain Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir, who went for a combined seven runs. That seemed to set the tone right at the start, as the Gladiators never looked like challenging the bowling till the very end. Sarfraz Ahmed's unbeaten 51 off 33 was a good knock, but neither he nor anyone else in the middle order looked capable of breaking the shackles through the middle overs. The Kings' spinners didn't extract as much turn or gain as much control as the Gladiators' spinners had done. Instead, the win was rooted mostly in the performances of their frontline pacers - Amir, with his economy and a second consecutive slog-overs performance of high quality; Mohammad Ilyas, who picked wickets almost every time he came on; and Arshad Iqbal, whose skiddy, back-of-a-length plan that looked unplayable in the early stages of the innings.
The wickets always seemed to be around the corner, despite a rather safe approach to the chase. The one instance of a batter being fearless came late, with Hassan Khan swinging his bat around for a 15-ball 24; but even after that injection of momentum, the score was 123 for 5 in 16.5 overs when he fell. That was indicative of the Gladiators pretty much always being behind the rate in chase.
All spin and a dream debut for Arish Ali
A lot of the Kings' early runs and momentum came with sixes from Sharjeel Khan, even though both he and Babae Azam struggled for fluency during their 71-run stand. The pitch wasn't one for free-flowing shots, and Sarfraz brought offspinner Abdul Nasir on in the sixth over. Until the 17th over it was only spin, with left-arm spinners Hassan and Arish Ali filling bowling out their overs. Only 83 came in those 12 overs.
The Gladiators came into this game with nothing to play for, which allowed them to play a second emerging player in the XI alongside Khurram Shahzad. Arish hadn't played at senior level before, but went away with an impressive haul and a statement before the next season.
Arish came on in the 11th over, after Abdul Nasir had strangled the Kings and dismissed Azam the previous over. Martin Guptill gave him a wicket off his very first ball, lofting a full one straight to long-off. Sharjeel was already in at this point, and was looking to push on against the left-arm spinner. But he only managed a chopped four past short third before playing on attempting the same shot again, the result of a simple plan from Arish - spin it in from outside off against the left-handers on a pitch that was offering grip and turn.
With the Kings trying to rebuild, Arish was in his element. In the end, Najibullah Zadran chopped him on trying the late cut as well. With the way he was going, Sarfraz asked him to come on in the 17th for his last over - and that resulted in the wicket of Imad, caught at long-on. That made it three left-handers dismissed on his first day in senior cricket.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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