PSL: Peshawar Zamli captain Shahid Afridi still the main attraction in Sharjah as Karachi Kings fall just short

Different kit, same old story for Shahid Afridi. Wearing Peshawar yellow instead of Pakistan green for the first time at this ground, he enjoyed his usual acclaim as the most popular man in Sharjah as he led his Zalmi side past Karachi Kings.

Shahid Afridi of Peshawar Zalmi playing a shot in the Pakistan Super League T20 match against Karachi Kings at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National
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Peshawar Zalmi 182-4

Hafeez 59; Bopara 2-31

Karachi Kings 179-9

Bopara 67, Vince 44; Riaz 2-29

Peshawar Zalmi won by three runs

SHARJAH // Different kit, same old story for Shahid Afridi. Wearing Peshawar yellow instead of Pakistan green for the first time at this ground, he enjoyed his usual acclaim as the most popular man in Sharjah as he led his Zalmi side past Karachi Kings.

Afridi has played 56 limited-overs internationals at this stadium. Never has he been short of support. Even though the competition is a new one, he was the main attraction, despite playing a relatively minor role in the three-run win in this Pakistan Super League match.

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Even though this game began during office hours, the atmosphere was buzzing again at the UAE’s oldest venue for cricket, reaching a frenzy when Afridi was on strike in the final overs of the Zalmi innings.

He finished not out on 17 after just nine balls, as he and Darren Sammy hoisted their side to an imposing 182 for four against an under-par Kings attack.

All of the Peshawar batsmen got starts. Mohammed Hafeez progressed his furthest, as he made a rapid 59 before being trapped in front by Ravi Bopara.

The Karachi franchise’s reply was comically bad at times, before Ravi Bopara and Sohail Tanvir saved face at the end of the innings.

The fact the Karachi batsmen struggled against bowlers such as Afridi, Wahab Riaz and Shaun Tait was perhaps forgivable. What was less so were the run outs, particularly that of Imad Wasim. The promising Pakistan all-rounder is an intelligent man who opted to forego studying to become a doctor to further his cricket career.

Gallery: Shahid Afridi's Peshawar hold on for victory against Ravi Bopara-inspired Karachi in PSL – in pictures

Yet he entirely took leave of his senses when strolling to make his ground as a throw arrived from the boundary. Even when he realised it was closer than he expected, he opted belatedly to try to step into his ground, instead of simply stretching his arm and bat to make his ground. He was on nought at the time.

Kings had seemed completely out of it at that point, England batsmen James Vince and Ravi Bopara tried their best to rectify the top order damage, sharing 61.

Once Vince went, Tanvir took up the slack, swinging away two sixes. But it was Bopara who marshalled the chase.

It was a triumph for the tournament, as a set of Pakistani expatriates in Sharjah were wildly celebrating a British Indian Essex boy, as he so nearly pulled off an unlikely heist.

Bopara, unwanted for England national duty but proving to be one of the stars of this tournament, blazed 67 from 33 balls to take the Kings to the brink.

He fell with five needed off the final three balls of Sammy’s final over. The West Indies captain kept his cool, though, to see his side over the line.

Star man - Ravi Bopara

For two games in a row, the Englishman has taken his side agonisingly close before pulling up short. Is he batting too low? Perhaps, or perhaps his top order need to do more to set up the run chases, and not leave so much on his shoulders.

Quite how England can afford to be without him at the World Twenty20 in India is another question, but he is not the only player who might be thinking that way at the PSL.

What they said

Darren Sammy, Peshawar Zalmi all-rounder: “It was a choice between me and the left-arm spinner [to bowl the last over] and I told the skipper to give it to me. This pitch is much better than the one in Dubai, because of the competition between the batsmen and the bowlers.”

Shoaib Malik, Karachi Kings captain: “Ravi, in the past two games, was the one who brought us close to the target. It is disappointing, but if you look at the way Vince and Bopara batted, we are just one step away from winning. We have to start winning.”

The National Verdict

Along with the Quetta Gladiators, Peshawar have looked the most consistently impressive side in the PSL to date, and yet it still feels like there is more to give.

This should have been more comfortable than the last over frenzy that it became. Still, though, neither their supporters nor the tournament organisers will be complaining too much about that.

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