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Islamabad United continued their winning streak and stand in the first position with 12 points in their bag; they will lock horns with Karachi Kings, who are in the 3rd place with 9 points, at Sharjah on 16th March for the last league game of the season before the semi-finals kick-off. United defeated Sultans in their last match by 33 runs while the Kings suffered a massive defeat against Peshawar Zalmi by 44 runs; when they last met, Islamabad United had emerged victorious against the Kings by 8 wickets and will be determined to finish the league on high. Karachi Kings will fight hard to keep their hopes alive, as they face stiff competition from other contenders like Zalmi and Gladiators.
Batting first against Multan Sultans, Luke Ronchi top-scored with 58 off 36 while Alex Hales and Hussain Talat kept the scoreboard ticking with 46 and 36 runs respectively. The bowlers then defended the total successfully thanks to 2-wicket haul each by spinners Shadab Khan, Samit Patel and pacers Faheem Ashraf and Amad Butt. Fast-bowler Mohammad Sami also dismissed one opponent and they won the match by a whopping 33 runs.
Against Karachi Kings earlier, Faheem Ashraf claimed 3-23 to restrict them to 153 runs; Mohammad Sami and Hussain Talat also took a wicket each to stifle the opponents. The batting line-up then put up a sturdy chase with Ronchi and Duminy posting a superb 104-opening stand. Ronchi posted a brilliant 71 off 37 while Duminy scored 43; Asif Ali also pitched in with 26 to steer them towards an 8-wicket win.
Against Gladiators, the bowlers yet again did well to restrict the opponents to 147; Faheem Ashraf continued his breath-taking spell, claiming 3-19 while speedster Amad Butt dismissed 2 opponents. Hussain Talat and spinner Samit Patel also contributed with a wicket each; the batting line-up is in good form to attain the required target.
CAK Walton, Jean-Paul Duminy, AD Hales, Hussain Talat, Asif Ali, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Zafar Gohar, Amad Butt, ST Finn.
Chasing 182-run target against Zalmi, opener Babar Azam stood alone in the top-order and posted a heroic 66 off 50; but with hardly any support from others down the line, they failed to cross the finish line and lost the match by 44 runs. Joe Denly and Colin Ingram were duck-out by the pacers while captain Eoin Morgan and Bopara failed to impress. Shahid Afridi pitched in with a quick fire 26 off 8 but it wasn’t enough to turn around the match. Earlier, fast-bowler Usman Khan took 3-11 to contain the opposition but others like Mohammad Irfan and Usama Mir proved to be expensive.
Against the Sultans, Denly posted a massive 78 off 55 to build a solid foundation batting first; Babar Azam impressed with 58 off 39 and the bowlers successfully defended 188 runs thanks to a superb 3-18 by spinner Shahid Afridi. Mohammad Irfan also dismissed 2 wickets while spinner Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir and Usman Khan took a wicket each.
They have good resources to fight back hard and make it to the knock-outs; although they have lost previously to United, they could strategize well and try to win this crucial match.
Joe Denly, Khurram Manzoor, Babar Azam, Colin Ingram, Eoin Morgan, SMSK Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Amir, UK Khan, TS Mills.
Looking at United’s recent winning form, they seem to be a formidable force to reckon with; however, we feel that Karachi Kings who face a must-win situation, could bounce back with a victory here.