Chris Gayle finally heralded his arrival with five sixes to guide Karachi Kings to a comfortable six-wicket win over Islamabad United, the defending champions, in a must-win last league game of the Pakistan Super League on Sunday (February 26).
Gayle’s 17-ball 44 also had two fours as he gave an ideal start to his team and helped them chased down a 124-run target in 14.5 overs in a rain-delayed match reduced to 15 overs a side.
Batting first, Islamabad posted 123 for 7 from their allotted complement, and Karachi got to 127 for 4 with one ball to spare.
Karachi needed at least 111 to qualify even if were they lose the match, but Gayle had other ideas. Finally shedding his poor form, he smashed three consecutive sixes off Saeed Ajmal, the former Pakistan offspinner, to provide the momentum that his team rode to the finish line.
Ajmal finally dismissed Gayle, but by then, the powerful Jamaican had already made his mark and set his team on the road to victory. Babar Azam made a run-a-ball 27 and Kieron Pollard hit the winning boundary in his 12-ball 16 as Karachi stormed into the playoffs.
Islamabad were lifted to 123 for 7 by Dwayne Smith. The opener fashioned a 36-ball 49 but no other batman could supplement the total. Smith hit seven boundaries and a six before he became one of four catches taken by Pollard in the outfield.
Brad Haddin (20), Ben Duckett (16), Hussain Talat (11) and Misbah-ul-Haq (12) also chipped in with useful contributions. Sohail Khan, Mohammad Amir and Usama Mir took two wickets apiece for Karachi.
Both teams will play again in the eliminator in Sharjah on Wednesday.
In the first qualifier, also in Sharjah, on Tuesday, Peshawar Zalmi, the top-ranked team will take on Quetta Gladiators, who finished No. 2. The winner will qualify for the March 5 final while the losers will meet the winner of the eliminator.
Karachi’s win meant heartbreak for Lahore Qalandars, the popular team which finished the league phase on six points and in the final position on the five-team table
They were also eliminated in the league phase in the first edition.