JOHANNESBURG: Azhar Mahmood was the star of the show as he helped the Auckland Aces to qualify for their spot in the Champions League T20 with a thumping eight-wicket victory over Hampshire at the Centurion on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old former Pakistan all-rounder took five for 24 from his four overs and then belted 55 not out to see his team home.
Azhar plundered four sixes and five fours in his belligerent innings, after removing James Vince, Jimmy Adams, Shahid Afridi and Liam Dawson with the ball as Hampshire posted 121 for eight from their 20 overs.
It proved hopelessly insufficient as Auckland reached their victory target with 5.3 overs remaining, for the loss of just two wickets.
Michael Carberry provided the lone resistance for the English side with a run-a-ball 65, but he received barely any support from his team-mates, who struggled desperately on a slow, sticky wicket.
Afridi, who failed in a four-ball duck with the bat, took a solitary wicket, as did first-change bowler Chris Wood, but it was a stroll for the Auckland batsmen.
Hampshire’s second match, against Pakistan’s Sialkot Stallions on Thursday, will be all but a dead rubber as both sides now have no chance of qualifying from a three-team group after the Aces downed the Stallions by six wickets on Tuesday.
Led by a man-of-the-match performance from Kyle Mills, the Aces restricted the Stallions to 130-9 and cruised home in 17.1 overs, losing only four wickets in the process.
Mills was outstanding in conceding just six runs in his four-over spell, which included two wickets.
The only batsman in the Stallions line-up who managed to dominate the Auckland bowlers was Shahid Yousuf, who scored 39 off 25 balls before he was caught and bowled by Ronnie Hira.
Stallions’ skipper Shoaib Malik and Ali Khan contributed 19 runs each, while opener Imran Nazir scored 17 off 15 balls.
In reply, Martin Guptill and Lou Vincent got the Aces off to a flier, adding 32 runs in 3.3 overs before Vincent was dismissed for 20.
Guptill scored 40 off 32 balls and hit five boundaries and a six before he was caught on the midwicket boundary after an attempted pull shot.
The pair laid the foundation for the win, and Anaru Kitchen wrapped up the win with an unbeaten knock of 33 off 21 balls.—Agencies