KARACHI: It was fitting that the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Twenty20 competition for the departments ending in a thrilling finish when Habib Bank Limited (HBL) clinched the title in the Super Over against Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) at the National Stadium here in the early hours of Friday.
Over the years, matches between these arch-rivals haven been fiercely contested and the final of the Pepsi presents Advance Telecom PCB Ramazan T20 Cup was no exception when PIA fought back from the brink of defeat through the heroics of Anwar Ali who smashed the last ball of the match for a straight six to level the scores.
Appropriately, the title-deciding encounter provided thrills and spills for a decent turnout — something which was sadly lacking in the preceding 22 games of the extravaganza — which was treated to exhilarating stuff from both sets of players with senior pros Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik engaged in an intriguing battle of the captains in a game that kept fluctuating at breakneck pace.
Younis struck the first psychological blow when he opted to go for batting after winning the toss. A true pitch, dedicatedly laid out by NSK’s head curator Ahsan Arain and his diligent support staff, it was a sensible move given the pressure situation of the game itself.
The decision to demote Imran Farhat to No 3 from his customary opening role paid off handsomely as the 31-year-old made up for his lean patch — 47 runs in the previous five innings here — with a belligerent 65. Striking the ball cleanly, the enigmatic Pakistan left-hander slammed seven boundaries and three sixes in his dominant 37-ball knock to put HBL in command at that point in time.
Sharing in productive partnerships of 58 in 34 balls with Hafiz Asad Baig (28 off 25, four boundaries) and 38 in 26 deliveries with Younis (20 off 18, one four), Imran’s domineering presence put PIA totally on the back foot with HBL poised to post the first 200-plus total in the event when they had advanced to 106-2 in the 12th over.
But a startling capitulation saw HBL lose the momentum with the last eight wickets failing for the addition of only 32 runs, starting with the departure of Imran, who was well held at deep cover by Ghulam Mohammad off Anwar Ali in the 15th over.
Salman Saeed, the young paceman who conceded three boundaries and one six to the rampaging Imran in his opening over that cost 22 runs, made a great comeback to end up with excellent figures of three for 29, making him the competition’s most successful wicket-taker with a haul of nine from five matches.
Malik, the inspiration behind PIA’s countless successes, was the one scalp with the highest price tag. And when Fahad Masood induced an edge to the wicket-keeper on the first ball the former Pakistan captain negotiated in the first over of the chase, the HBL had landed a jackpot.
In fact, it was a night of horrors for Malik since he was also out for a golden duck in the one-over eliminator during which his team mustered 7-2, leaving Imran Farhat to complete the final rites for the eventual champions at just past quarter to three in the morning.
Faisal Iqbal scored 42 from 40 balls but his failure to accelerate the pace of scoring cost PIA dearly before Sarfraz Ahmed (30 off 15 balls, three fours and one six) and Anwar Ali (17 off eight, two sixes) just served to extend the suspense before Younis gleefully accepted the winners’ trophy and Rs2 million from the chief guest, Shoaib Siddiqui the commissioner of Karachi.
Malik received the runners-up and Rs1 million on behalf of his PIA team among the major prizes along with the best all-rounder award, while Imran Farhat was most eligible recipient of the Man-of-the-Match award.
Mohammad Yasin, the Khan Research Laboratories opener, was adjudged the tournament’s best batsman.