Multan Sultans secured a seven-wicket victory over Karachi Kings on Thursday in the opening match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) seventh edition.
Rizwan scored 52 off 47 balls to help his team start this year's PSL campaign on a winning note, while Tahir gave his side the opening wicket and also took a total of three wickets.
The Kings' bowlers could not perform up to the mark as they were already under pressure as the Babar Azam-led side had handed a meagre 124-run target to the Sultans, which they completed in 18.2 overs at the loss of three wickets.
Mohammad Nabi took two wickets and Mohammad Ilyas took one for the Kings.
Earlier the Kings got off to a solid start but stuttered once a swashbuckling 31-ball 43 from Sharjeel Khan ended, and set the defending champions 125 for victory. Sultans were never in a rush to finish the game off, but the outcome was never in doubt, and by the 19th over, made official what everyone had known for a while - the Sultans had been much too good for the Kings.
Imran Tahir was the Sultans superstar, derailing a Kings innings that perhaps never quite took off as it was meant to. Babar Azam's role as T20 opener was much scrutinised in the wake of Pakistan's T20 World Cup semifinal loss to Australia, and he didn't do his reputation any favours with a scratchy 29-ball 23 for his side, allowing the Sultans to gain the early momentum.
The fall of wickets began in the 10th over when Tahir picked up the first and crucial wicket of Sharjeel Khan, who was on a roll with his opening partner and skipper Babar Azam.
Sharjeel Khan was the only top-scorer of Kings' as he scored 43 runs off 31 balls.
Multan Sultans captain Mohammad Rizwan had won the toss and decided to bowl against Karachi Kings in the opening match of the PSL at the National Cricket Stadium Karachi.
The match preceded by a ceremony to official start the marquee T20 compeition, with singers Atif Aslam and Aima Baig performed the official song Agay Dekh.
Head to head
The two teams have previously faced each other nine times, with Karachi Kings having come out on top five times while Multan was victorious on two occasions. One of the matches did not yield any result and another was abandoned.
Karachi has a distinct advantage at the National Stadium, where the sides have clashed on two previous occasions, with Karachi emerging triumphant on both occasions.
“We have the potential to defend our PSL title and we will be taking the field tomorrow with that mindset. This season will present us with new challenges and we will have to plan accordingly," said Multan captain Rizwan.
He also lauded Babar Azam as a "wonderful batter and captain", saying his leadership would "certainly have a good impact on Karachi Kings". He was hopeful that the HBL PSL 7 will kick off with a "great contest" between the two sides.
Karachi Kings captain Babar Azam said that it would be a tough contest against Multan, according to the report. Azam was excited to be leading Kings this season as this was the first instance that he would lead a team in the HBL PSL and he was looking forward to it.
“The first match of the tournament always has a lot of eyeballs and Multan Sultans can prove to be tough opposition. I am sure the fans will get to see a thrilling contest,” he said, adding Karachi Kings would display good and competitive cricket this season under the coaching of Peter Moores, who is a seasoned coach.
The 2022 edition of the league is divided into two legs, with the first leg in Karachi till February 7, after which it would switch to Lahore for the second leg of the tournament from February 10 till the final on February 27.
Due to rising cases of Covid-19's Omicron variant, the National Command and Operation Centre has allowed only 25 per cent crowd in the stadium to watch the live match performances.
In the previous editions of the PSL, five out of the six teams have won the titles so far. Islamabad United won two titles in 2016 and 2018, Peshawar Zalmi in 2017, Quetta Gladiators in 2019, Karachi Kings in 2020 and Multan Sultans in 2021.