Iqbal picked up 3 for 16 before Clarke’s 23-ball 46 reduced the chase to a formality

Karachi Kings 126 for 3 (Clarke 46, Nabi 30*, Hasnain 2-18) beat Quetta Gladiators 121 (Gayle 39, Iqbal 3-16, Maqsood 2-21) by seven wickets

Last year’s win was no fluke, and this year’s title defence is no surrender. That was the emphatic message Karachi Kings sent out not just to the hapless Quetta Gladiators, whom they thrashed by seven wickets in the inaugural PSL match of this season, but also to the rest of the teams. The Kings might have copped criticism for letting go of Mohammad Rizwan in the off season, but it was the new wicketkeeping recruit Joe Clarke who was the star of the show for Imad Wasim’s side, taking four catches and blitzing 46 off 23 balls to tear the game away from the Gladiators.

The win was initially set up by the Kings bowlers – emerging player Arshad Iqbal chief among them – who punctured the Gladiators with regular wickets throughout the innings, and in the end, bowled them out for 121 in 18.2 overs.

After being put in, Quetta, somewhat curiously, opened the batting with captain Sarfaraz Ahmed alongside Tom Banton rather than the more obvious option of Chris Gayle. Banton’s stay was ephemeral, falling to a low-percentage hoick in the first over. Once Gayle settled himself in, he looked the most serious outlet for a potentially match-winning total for Quetta Gladiators. However, no one kept him company, and the Jamaican himself managed more of a cameo before falling for 39 off 24. The next highest for the Gladiators was Azam Khan’s 17.

Mohammad Hasnain did briefly threaten to make things interesting by removing Sharjeel Khan in a fiery first over, but a loose one from Qais Ahmed that Clarke spanked for 24, apart from three wides, removed any realistic chances of victory. Hasnain returned to remove Babar Azam midway through the innings, but by this time the Kings only needed to go through the motions to get their title defence off to a resounding start, and when the winning runs were scored, they had 37 balls to spare.

Star of the day
While the Gladiators pace unit got most of the attention, with Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain and Usman Shinwari in its ranks, the Kings’ emerging quick Iqbal ended up outshining the lot. Called in to bowl with Gayle having primed himself with 18 off Aamer Yamin, Iqbal held his nerve in the opening salvo, allowing just four in the seventh over. He wasn’t called on again until Ben Cutting and Azam Khan threatened to cut loose; the pair had just taken 11 off a Wasim over.

What did Iqbal do? Bowl a wicket-maiden, naturally. He varied the pace beautifully as Cutting and Azam struggled to get a read on the young bowler’s plans before Azam swatted him straight to Daniel Christian in frustration. In his next over, Iqbal sent Cutting’s leg stump cartwheeling, and dismissed Hasnain in his final over, with figures of 4-1-16-3 not flattering him in the slightest.

Miss of the day
Erm, the Gladiators batsmen in general? More specifically, Banton. The Gladiators would have plumped for Banton at the auction assuming his miserable outing last year with Peshawar Zalmi was something of an anomaly. But with the young Englishman having skipped the Big Bash League this year, there’s little recent data to gauge his form, and what was on offer today might worry Gladiators.

Perhaps too eager to impose himself, he smashed Wasim to cow corner off the second ball he faced, before attempting an ugly smear over midwicket to a ball he never came close to the pitch of. It went a mile up and back down to the wicketkeeper, continuing Banton’s struggles in the PSL. Whether he shakes them off could be pivotal to the Gladiators’ chances in the tournament.

Honourable mention
With that boyish innocent smile, the flowing wavy hair and the easy elegant, slender high-arm action, Hasnain can be the most marketable of Pakistan’s fast bowlers once he really gets his career underway. He was at that luscious best today, even if in a losing cause, pace and swing both on offer first up that proved too hot for Sharjeel. He had Joe Clarke on toast off his first delivery, unlucky not to find either the outside edge of the bat or the stumps. Despite little support from the other end, he then dismissed Azam, too, and when he was done, he had leaked just 18 off his four overs. The Gladiators might have had a bad day, but they will have that positive to take out of it.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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