Karachi: Defending champion Multan Sultans thumped Karachi Kings by seven wickets as Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 league opened with several players and support staff members already in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. Led by Mohammad Rizwan’s unbeaten 52 off 47 balls, Multan cruised to 126-3 with 10 balls to spare after South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir took 3-16 and had restricted Karachi to 124-5.
The spread of coronavirus has already seen several players like Wahab Riaz and Kamran Akmal of Peshawar Zalmi and Imad Wasim of Karachi going into isolation. Star allrounder Shahid Afridi was the latest to test positive on Thursday and was ruled out of his team Quetta Gladiators’ first four games.
Afridi, who was due to miss at least two games due to back pain, will remain in isolation for at least one week before he will be reintegrated with his team in a bio-secure bubble after getting a negative Covid-19 test.
“I have unfortunately tested positive but have no symptoms at all,” Afridi tweeted.
Karachi missed allrounder Wasim, who helped the team win the tournament in 2020 but now is being replaced by Babar Azam as skipper. To make things worse for Karachi, its premier fast bowler Mohammad Amir had to sit out the first game due to a side strain.
Babar, leading Karachi for the first time, and Sharjeel Khan struggled to set the tempo against some tidy bowling by fast bowlers David Willey and Shahnawaz Dahani up front after Rizwan won the toss and elected to field. The sharp spin of Tahir further clamped down Karachi in the middle overs as the batters struggled to come to terms with the sluggish wicket.
Sharjeel made 43 and Babar scored 23 off 29 balls before both were dismissed in successive overs after putting on 66 runs for the first wicket stand. Sharjeel misread Tahir’s googly and skied a catch at backward point and Babar offered a tame catch at mid off against the left-arm spin of Khushdil Shah.
None of the four foreign Karachi batters could impress in the middle-order with Englishman Joe Clarke scoring nearly a run-a-ball 26. Rizwan anchored Multan’s run-chase with his gritty half century and completed his fifty by lofting left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Imran over extra covers for a boundary.
Tim David (12 not out) raised the victory when he belted Afghanistan off-spinner Mohammad Nabi for a big six over midwicket. Nabi was the pick of the Karachi bowlers and finished with 2-17.