Islamabad United hope a better record will help them overcome the challenge Karachi Kings pose on their home turf as the two teams clash in the 1st Eliminator at the National Stadium on Thursday.
Thursday’s winner will meet the losing side from Wednesday’s match between Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi in Eliminator 2 on Friday, with the winner qualifying for the sell-out 17 March final.
Islamabad, champions in 2016 and 2018, were equal on points with their rivals in the league phase with 10 in as many games, finished ahead of Karachi on better net run-rate.
On their way to the title in the first edition, Islamabad beat Karachi in the Eliminator by a convincing nine-wicket margin when Brad Haddin (52*) and Luke Ronchi (50*) helped them chase down a modest target of 111 runs.
But Karachi reversed the result in 2017, when the two teams again met in the Eliminator, beating Islamabad by 44 runs at the back of some superb bowling performances by Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim and Usama Mir – all taking three wickets.
Islamabad again had the better of Karachi in the third edition on their way to the title, winning by eight wickets. Ronchi once again was Karachi’s nemesis, by scoring a whirlwind 94.
In 2019, Islamabad proved a better batting and bowling unit as they beat Karachi by seven and five wickets respectively in the two league matches, with Asif Ali benefiting from a dropped catch to plunder a match-winning 70 in Sharjah.
However, Islamabad captain Mohammad Sami feels it will be a new match on a new day.
“We have done well in the league phase, but there are no advantages because come Thursday it will be a new match for both the teams,” said Sami, who took a hat trick in the league phase.
Sami leads a strong pace attack and is backed up by Faheem Ashraf who has 19 wickets besides the exuberance of Musa Khan and Ammad Butt.
In Shadab Khan and Samit Patel, Islamabad have two good spinners who can stop the flow of runs and also claim crucial wickets.
Ronchi with 297 runs at a strike rate of 158.82 is Islamabad’s leading run-scorer and has a solid record against Karachi. Asif also poses danger in the middle-order as he can be effective in the death overs.
Karachi are also shaping up well with time and before their home crowd. They had the better of Quetta in the last-ball thriller as they won one-run before going down to Peshawar in the last league game to finish fourth on the table.
“We are looking forward to play against Islamabad. We have had a lot of good battles against them and they have obviously won a lot of games against us.
“This time around, we think it’s our time and we are hopeful to win this match,” said Imad, who hopes fans come to support in big numbers,” said Imad.
Karachi will hope Colin Ingram, Babar Azam (293 runs in 10 matches) and Liam Livingstone (291 runs) lift them to a good total and hope their spin-cum attack stops Islamabad. Left-arm spinner Umar Khan has been a revelation for Karachi, having taken 13 wickets in the league phase.
The pace attack comprising of Mohammad Amir (12 wickets) and Usman Shinwari (12) is also getting better results with each match.