Islamabad United are the first team through to the 2018 HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, after a savage display of hitting by Luke Ronchi downed Karachi Kings.
The former New Zealand international blazed 94 not out in 39 balls as the inaugural PSL champions beat Karachi by eight wickets with 45 balls to spare at Dubai International Stadium.
Because of the format of the PSL play-offs, Karachi will still get a second shot at qualifying for Sunday’s final in their home city.
They will now go to Lahore, to play the winner of Tuesday night’s eliminator playoff between Peshawar Zalmi, the defending champions, and Quetta Gladiators.
Their vaunted bowling attack might still be shell-shocked by then, though, given the suffering they endured at the hands of Ronchi.
When he brought up his 50 it meant he had the three fastest half-centuries of this season – from 19, 22 and 23 balls respectively. He went back to the top of the run-scoring charts in the process.
To make matters worse, Islamabad’s wicketkeeper batsman was dropped on 56, 57 and 63 as Karachi imploded.
The hitting was all the more impressive as it came against arguably the most star-studded bowling attack – at least on paper – in the league.
But Mohammed Amir, Usman Shinwari, Tymal Mills and Shahid Afridi, encouraged by captain Eoin Morgan, were powerless to stop him.
At the halfway point, Karachi would have been full of optimism, after Colin Ingram’s 39-ball 68 not out had hauled them to 154 for four from their 20 overs.
It was hardly even a challenge for Islamabad, though, with Ronchi in this sort of form. He looked on contentedly as Samit Patel hit the winning runs with more than eight overs still to go.