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Munro, Ifthikar stun Karachi Kings in tall chase

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Published in Cricket
Monday, 14 June 2021 13:20
Islamabad United 191 for 2 (Munro 88*, Iftikhar 71*) beat Karachi Kings 190 for 4 (Babar 81, Zadran 71*) by eight wickets
Colin Munro and Iftikhar Ahmed pulled off a stunning turnaround in the second half of the innings as Islamabad United sealed a comprehensive victory over Karachi Kings. Overcoming a sluggish start, the pair finished unbeaten on 150 off 79 balls as they won with eight balls to spare. Munro finished with a 56-ball 88, while Iftikhar delivered the knockout punches at the end with a 39-ball 71 as the Kings came apart in defence.
Dropped catches, extras, and visibly flustered bowlers were the picture for the Kings who had earlier put up 190 on a true surface. Babar Azam's 81 and Najibullah Zadran's unbeaten 71 had ensured that; it didn't prove to be enough.
Karachi do it smart
Kings were put into bat and went off to a decent start. While Azam took some time to suss the pitch out, they had the insurance of Sharjeel Khan, who managed to hit two sixes in the powerplay in an opening stand of 37. Once he fell, Babar opened up to find some boundaries. It was a role reversal, with No. 3 Martin Guptill struggling for timing during his brief stay before eventually chopping on.
However, the steady start to the innings meant they were still going at nine an over. From there, Babar and Zadran kept the rate up, finding the pitch to be conducive to driving on the up. Babar used the bounce and lift in the surface to bring out some delightful flicks, and drives through extra cover, with the occasional indulgence of hitting fast bowlers straight over their heads. He took a liking to Hasan Ali, but did end up falling to him on 81 in the 19th over.
Zadran outlasted Babar, with whom he had put up 117 in just over 12 overs, and came into his own with confident aerial shots towards the end. He was lethal with the cut shot early on, and particularly took a liking to Shadab Khan off whom he hit sixes off consecutive deliveries in the 14th over - one over midwicket, one over extra cover. That 14th over was the start of a phase in which they score more than 15 an over on four occasions. It hauled them to 190, which didn't prove enough.
A slow start to the chase
United had a streaky, ungainly start to their chase. Amir had Usman Khawaja in knots in the first over with outswing, and Waqas Maqsood kept Munro reasonably quiet at the other end too. In their first three overs, United had only three boundaries. At Khawaja's dismissal in the fifth over, they had only 28 on the board, and a brand new No. 3 in Muhammad Akhlaq lasted only two balls, losing his off stump comprehensively to Maqsood.
The pattern would hold - much like the pitch seemed to be. Munro and Iftikhar had scarcely any scoring opportunities on a pitch that suddenly seemed to have slowed. On the occasions Munro seemed to have bludgeoned the ball, he unfailingly found the fielders as well. At 72 for 2 in 10 overs, they didn't look healthy in the chase - like a wicket would open up the gates for the Kings.
Maqsood and Perera live the horror
That wicket never came. But it could have. At the start of the 12th over, Munro toe-ended a pull shot in the direction of mid-off, having charged down the track at Abbas Afridi. A simple catch was presented to Maqsood, who didn't have to move too much, but ended up dropping that.
In the span of one over from there, Munro managed to hit four boundaries, including the one that took him to fifty. Iftikhar heaved one into the grass banks over square leg too. It was the start of the end for the Kings. United needed 80 off seven at that point, and Thisara Perera was handed the ball after the strategic break. Imad Wasim had suffered a finger injury trying to take a return catch, and couldn't finish his overs.
Munro sent the first ball for six, the second for four, and then dispatched a waist-high full toss - Perera's second of the evening - over cover. His next ball, also a high full toss, was clubbed straight to long-off by Munro. But the third umpire intervened to rule it above waist height, and the resulting free hit was launched into the leg side by Iftikhar.
Seventeen had come off the previous over, 23 came off Perera's 14th. That was the pivot - Munro and Iftikhar unleashed a force that proved too much for the Kings; Munro ended having hit ten boundaries and two sixes, and Iftikhar five fours and five sixes. It was an indication of just how much Kings' bowling fell apart in the final quarter of the game.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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