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Karachi Kings, Islamabad United to fight till last ball in eliminator challenge

KARACHI: Home team Karachi Kings will look to take the fight to the last ball in a do-or-die clash with defending champions Islamabad United in the first eliminator at the National Stadium today.

There will be no second chances for the losing team: today’s winner will face Peshawar Zalmi in the second eliminator on Friday, and whoever wins tomorrow will be up against title favourites Quetta Gladiators in Sunday’s final.

Islamabad United, the champions of 2016 and 2018, have history on their side. Karachi Kings, who are yet to reach a final for the first time, have nothing to lose. In front of a sold-out stadium, on their home turf, Imad Wasim’s men will be desperate to make it to their first ever final, but they would have to figure out a strategy to remove Islamabad United out of their way.

Islamabad United are known to rise to the occasions, but this time they are without the experienced Misbah-ul-Haq. The positives are plenty, though: Faheem Ashraf is in fiery form with the ball, and is the second highest wicket-taker this season behind Peshawar Zalmi’s Hasan Ali, with 19 wickets. He only recently demolished Lahore Qalandars with a 6-19 haul, and will be raring to tear through Karachi Kings batting lineup.

Luke Ronchi, who was the single most destructive batsman in last year’s PSL, is also Islamabad’s top scorer this season and a lot will count on his form. But the biggest boost will be Alex Hales, who has joined the squad for the playoffs.

Karachi Kings have the most fearsome batting on paper, but the form of their batsmen has not been as consistent as they’d have liked it to be. A lot will be riding on Babar Azam, the world’s number one ranked T20 batsman, and Colin Ingram, who is this tournament’s second highest scorer behind Quetta Gladiators’ Shane Watson.

Mohammad Amir has peaked at just the right time, with a three-wicket haul against Zalmi earlier this week. Young spinner Umer Khan has been Karachi’s best surprise this season, with 13 wickets from 10 games. Usman Shinwari, who powered Karachi into the playoffs with three wickets in the last over against Quetta on Sunday, has regained his confidence too.

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