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Record partnership between Liam Livingstone and Babar Azam sets up Karachi victory

SAM MORSHERAD AT THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL CRICKET STADIUM: For Livingstone, it was the perfect introduction to life in the PSL. Benefiting a little from indisciplined bowling, the Lancashire man seemed only able to find the middle of his bat

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Dubai: Karachi Kings 183-6, Multan Sultans 176-9 - Karachi Kings won by 7 runs

A Pakistan Super League record partnership between Liam Livingstone and Babar Azam laid the foundations for Karachi Kings’ winning start to 2019 despite a determined fightback from Multan Sultans.

Livingstone and Azam crashed 157 in 15.4 overs to seemingly put Karachi in a position of total control, only for a late collapse and a spirited chase by the Sultans ensure that the crowd inside the Dubai International Stadium were kept in suspense right until the death.

For Livingstone, it was the perfect introduction to life in the PSL. Benefiting a little from indisciplined bowling, the Lancashire man seemed only able to find the middle of his bat on his way to 82 from 43 balls.

Azam, meanwhile, contributed 77 in 59. The rest of the Karachi side managed 17 off 18 as the Kings could only add 26 more in the 4.1 overs after the opening stand was broken.

In reply, Multan struggled to find a rhythm early on but Laurie Evans (49 in 39 balls) and Shoaib Malik (a quickfire 52 in 28) gave them hope. Ultimately, however, there was just too much to do.

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Babar Azam hit 77 at the top of the order (Image PCB)

Karachi raced out of the traps in the early overs, with the combination of England international Liam Livingstone and Pakistan star Babar Azam latching quickly onto anything short and wide.

On a pitch that offered little pace or bounce, even for the giant seven-foot, two-inch frame of Mohammad Irfan, the Kings enjoyed a royal start. By the end of the powerplay they had 53 on the board, 10 overs in the total had risen to 93.

It was a flawless display of hitting, with both batsmen playing a game of chicken with the Karachi field. Livingstone, looking in tremendous nick, powered his way to a half-century with a crashing straight six off Shahid Afridi, which careered into the VIPs in the Royal Box.

Azam soon followed Livingstone’s example, reaching his fifty in 39 balls, and played the anchor role as the pair planted their feet on the accelerator from the 12th over.

Livingstone piled into a pair of fizzing return drives which came within inches of doing both Irfan and Mohammad Ilyas substantial damage, before cracking back-to-back sixes off teenage seamer Ilyas.

Azam punched Chris Green back into the sightscreens to grab the record and a total of 200 appeared inevitable.

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Andre Russell picked up a single wicket (Image PCB)

Livingstone eventually perished to Green, caught in the deep by Russell at long-on, however, and that triggered a mini collapse.

Colin Ingram hooked Russell into the waiting hands of Shan Masood at deep square leg for 1, Babar’s riotous knock came to an end when he carted Green to midwicket and Imad Wasim followed the next ball – another catch in the deep, this time by Ilyas, giving Australian spinner Green his third wicket.

Sikandar Raza was run out by wicketkeeper Tom Moores attempting to steal a bye, Hammad Asam took a tumbling catch at third man to give Junaid Khan his first wicket of the match and see off Mohammad Rizwan, and Multan had managed to regain respectability.

Still, a target of 184 looked stiff. Moores struggled against the swinging ball before getting a leading edge to Mohammad Amir and finding Ingram in the covers. The outlook looked bleak.

Laurie Evans and Shan Masood took time to bed in, with Evans doing well to haul himself through a tricky spell of slow left-arm spin, but the Sultans were well behind when Masood heaved Umer Khan to Amir at deepmidwicket.

The required run rate steadily rose, touching 14 at one point, before Malik and Evans discovered a fresh set of gears.

Malik took 24 off the 14th over, bowled by Ravi Bopara, and posted a 24-ball century, while the in-form Evans seemed dead set to join him, only for the pair to get themselves in a tangle running a bye. Evans was the one to suffer, run out at the non-striker’s end.

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Livingstone and Babar set a PSL record (Image PCB)

Andre Russell kept the momentum moving back in Multan’s direction during his brief stay at the crease, which featured one almighty six into the very back of the top tier over midwicket, before he chased a wide delivery from Amir that really deserved its own bumper sticker and was gobbled up by Rizwan behind the stumps.

If that wicket dampened Sultans hopes, what followed in the next over tossed them into the plunge pool.

Malik, on the pull against Usman Shinwari, could only find the boundary rider at deep midwicket. His enthralling innings over, and with it Multan’s chance of an opening-night win.

The 18th over went for 20, thanks to a combination of Afridi and Hammad and the bowler, Sohail Khan, who had by now been picked off for 49 in three overs, looked distraught.

Khan had to be given a nudge back to his mark by his team-mates for the final ball. Thankfully for him, and for Karachi, Amir saved his blushes.

Afridi lost middle and leg to his former international team-mate early in the penultimate over, advancing down the track and yorking himself in the process, and a second wicket came at the end of an excellent set of six, with Hammad failing to beat Livingstone at long-off.

Left needing 16 in the final over, Green took a pair of twos off the first two balls before finding Ingram at long-on off Khan. The seamer bowled Ilyas with the very next delivery and the game, in effect was over. Time to catch a breath.

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