Home » PSL 7: Match 1 – Karachi Kings v Multan Sultans

PSL 7: Match 1 – Karachi Kings v Multan Sultans

CricViz analyst Ben Jones takes a look at the opening game of PSL 7.

Multan Sultans started the defence of their Pakistan Super League crown in emphatic fashion, with a comfortable victory over Karachi Kings, at the National Stadium. A calm unbeaten half-century from Mohammad Rizwan saw his side over the line with two overs to spare. The game was largely won in the first innings, with Karachi’s underpowered effort and below par score. Sharjeel Khan found some rhythm in his brisk 43 (31), but the most interesting element of the innings was – as is often the case – the work of Babar Azam.

The Karachi Kings skipper played a stereotypically Babaristic knock. The Powerplay saw him score just 13 runs from 16 balls, steadily accumulating and getting himself set, showing very little early intent. In his T20 career, Babar has reached 29 deliveries on 102 occasions, but only four times have seen him on fewer runs than the 23 he managed today. It’s only the fourth time he’s gone that deep into an innings with just one boundary to his name.

Karachi is such a chasing venue, that if you bat first you have to take risks. The previous 15 PSL matches at the National Stadium had brought 14 wins for the chasing side. You can’t be playing out Tim David, a batsman who happens to bowl who despite, bowling more this year, has been going at just under 11rpo – and that was notably exactly what Babar did, with four runs from four balls. Sharjeel took down David, first by dispatching a rank full toss but secondly by hitting a genuine off break off a good length well into the stands. Next over he attempted to do the same to Tahir, with the pressure having built on him from Babar, but miscued.

This wasn’t a great pitch. The average bounce across the game was around 75cm, barely skimming the top of the stumps. Such conditions clearly are not conducive for expressive strokeplay, and it is not like no other batsmen struggled today. Mohammed Nabi scuffed along at a worrying rate, limited by some good deployment early on (targeted by pace) but then unable to capitalise against spin. There was significant turn, and limited opportunities for 

Similarly, early on there was a reason for some caution. Swing for David Willey in the first over, some decent speed from Shahnawaz Dahani, and the general process of assessing conditions which were clearly skewed towards the bowling side of things, all stand as justification for a steadier start. 

Joe Clarke forms an interesting contrast. The Englishman is historically rapid in the Powerplay, one of the fastest scorers ever in that opening phase. In part, that is a consequence of his home venues in the UK, having played a lot of cricket at New Road for Worcestershire and Trent Bridge for Nottinghamshire, both of which are very high scoring grounds. He may have only made 26 (24) today but he didn’t face a single delivery in the Powerplay, the phase where he is unquestionably at his best. There is an argument he should be opening, if Karachi want to get the best out of him, and it is followed up by the argument that Babar could move to No.3. There are options for Karachi.

This isn’t a new discussion. Babar has always played in this manner, and is unlikely to change. Perhaps he shouldn’t. The security he offers in terms of never being dismissed is elite, and the stability he offers in terms of planning around his performances clearly has huge value. There’s a clear contrast between the general T20 predilections of coach Peter Moores, whose Nottinghamshire team have generally batted deep and gone hard, and Babar’s more cautious style alongside the lack of batting depth in this Karachi team. It will be interesting to see how that contrast falls.

He will win Karachi games this season, without question. But on days like today, he might lose you a fair few as well.


Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

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