Bopara’s Karachi Kings did not ‘deserve’ to advance into Pakistan Super League play-offs as Lahore Qalandars miss out

Karachi all-rounder acknowledges the luck factor and the pressures ahead of raising the bar in the play-offs as they edged out Lahore on the basis of head-to-head record.

Brad Haddin led Islamabad United’s reply with a half-century knock of 54 that was enough to beat Lahore Qalandars. Courtesy PCB
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DUBAI // What more could a small league of five teams want than for the last day of group games to open with two teams still in contention for one slot in the play-offs?

And moreover for those two teams to be the spikiest, longest-running city rivalry in Pakistan? Battling not only for the right to progress but also to avoid the ignominy of the wooden spoon?

That was the fate that awaited Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings when yesterday dawned on the Pakistan Super League (PSL), in Dubai for the last of the regular round of games; one the cultural capital of the country, the other the economic engine, both constantly tussling for the title of the country's most happening city.

By yesterday evening both had lost their last games but because Karachi had done the double over Lahore, so to speak, in their two round games, the port city it was that went through.

Not that they deserved it, as Ravi Bopara admitted after a five-wicket loss to Peshawar Zalmi. It was their sixth loss in eight games and followed the pattern of the others: an underwhelming performance with the bat, from an uncertain, constantly shuffled order.

Good as their bowling can be, defending 152 was never going to be easy. They got close yesterday until the veteran Brad Hodge intervened. He hit a powerful, accomplished 45-ball 85, turning the game on its head in the 16th over, when he took 23 runs off Usama Mir. “We’re obviously not satisfied,” said Bopara, who has pretty much carried the side by himself through the tournament.

“We’ve played poorly, I don’t think we deserved to go through the way we’ve played if I’m being brutally honest.

“But this league, four teams go through no matter what and you don’t know what can happen in the play-offs. It’s a lot of pressure, the knockout stage. We’ll see what happens under pressure.”

Lucky for them, Lahore have been poorer.

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As was again highlighted in the evening defeat to Islamabad United, their bowling attack is all but non-existent.

On Tuesday night they had failed to defend 202 against Quetta Gladiators.

They have just one bowler in the top 10 wicket-takers and of their front line bowlers, only one, Ajantha Mendis, has gone for less than eight runs an over.

They have at least possessed a grand consolation in Umar Akmal, who ended this stage of the tournament as its leading scorer.

He was unbeaten on 72 against Islamabad, a third successive fifty and all three without being dismissed, a run of 179 runs undefeated in all.

Had it not been for him, Lahore would have crumpled. They were six for three, before the must-win game had even begun. But Sohaib Maqsood and Akmal came together in an eminently sensible and stylish 97-run stand that took them to safety.

Akmal ended the innings with a six, the kind only he can play in all of Pakistan, a full-length ball angling away outside off was hoicked into the deep midwicket stands. That got them to a nice, round 150.

Islamabad conspired to make it a trickier chase than it was, but it was never in real doubt. They got home with six balls and five wickets to spare.

If only, remains the thought, Karachi could have Lahore’s batting, or Lahore Karachi’s bowling. Combined that would be a decent side. ​

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