Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 5 December 2020

PSL 2020: Babar Azam keeps a cool head to guide Karachi Kings to victory in final

Karachi's star batsman showed remarkable poise on an emotional night to guide his team to victory over Lahore Qalandars

Given the emotion driving Karachi Kings in their pursuit of their first PSL title on Tuesday night, the poise showed by their star batsman was remarkable.

Babar Azam was the embodiment of the adage: fire in the belly, ice in the mind.

Once victory was sealed, he tweeted a picture of the late Dean Jones, who had started the tournament as Karachi’s coach, with the message: “Deano, job done coach!”

Jones, who died in September, leaves behind a remarkable legacy in this tournament.

This triumph included, he has been the coach for three of the five PSL title winning sides so far – twice with Islamabad, and now setting up this one for Karachi.

Babar did everything possible to make sure they provided the right tribute for Jones, with man of the match displays in both the first qualifier and the final.

In making 63 not out in the run chase against Lahore Qalandars, he appeared to be playing a different game to everyone else.

As the final was progressing, the analytics company CricViz calculated Lahore had attacked 58 per cent of the deliveries they faced, but were only in control of 69 per cent.

By contrast Karachi, with Babar at the wicket throughout their chase, attacked 47 per cent, but were in control of 84 per cent. It required data to be crunched to get that information.

And yet Babar was already ahead of the game, just using his own onboard computer.

While fielding at point and juggling his bowlers through the final overs of the Lahore innings, he conducted a lucid conversation with Ramiz Raja on commentary, via the Spider Cam.

The gist of it was that the pitch required orthodox cricket shots, rather than attempting to force the issue with muscle.

Which meant Babar was always going to be better qualified than anyone to counter the challenge.

Playing “proper cricket shots” he maintained a strike rate of 128.57, which is a run better than his career strike rate – 127.53 - in the format.

The ease with which he did so cut a stark contrast to everyone else. For Lahore, Tamim Iqbal had struck at 92.1 per 100 balls, Fakhar Zaman 112.5, Ben Dunk 78.57, and David Wiese an even 100.

His colleagues struggled, too. Sharjeel Khan was hitting at 108.53, Alex Hales 100, and Chadwick Walton, 81.48.

“It's been a great year for me, but today, I just needed to remain cool,” Babar said.

“The team was depending on me and I needed not to panic. The wicket was slow and I wasn't feeling the ball on the bat very well. I feel the calmer you are, the better you perform.”

His confidence will have been bolstered by his form. In his past six trips to the crease, he has not failed to pass 50.

“I'm on the quest for improvement all the time, and how to deal with batting in different situations and different countries,” Babar said. “I just try and remain positive.”

Updated: November 18, 2020 09:58 PM

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