KARACHI: In a stunning turnaround Islamabad staged a sensational entry into the knockout phase of the National T20 Cup by depriving Multan a semi-final place after sealing a clinical seven-wicket victory in Multan on Sunday.
Before start of play on the last day of the league-round fixtures, Islamabad were rooted to the bottom of the eight-team standings with a dismal net run-rate of -0.019 while Multan — with three wins already in their bag just needed to beat their opponents to qualify — were placed fourth with a +0.117 run-rate.
However, the above-mentioned permutations changed dramatically when Islamabad produced an inspiring team effort to not just score their third victory but momentously pushed Multan out of the last-four race on the basis of a superior net run-rate of +0.140, while Multan finished with a -0.087 run-rate in the final calculations.
By virtue of ending fourth Islamabad further have the crucial advantage of playing the second semi-final against second-placed Lahore Whites when the conditions at the Multan Cricket Stadium are relatively easier than those teams find in the day’s first fixture.
The other semi-final on Monday is, curiously enough, a rematch of Sunday’s opening game during which Rawalpindi outgunned Karachi Whites by a whopping eight-wicket margin to clinch the top spot in the final standings with five wins and a net run-rate of +0.255, while Karachi Whites, who were on top before this match, found themselves demoted to No.3 with four wins and a net run-rate of +0.256 — that was only bettered by Lahore Whites’ +0.413.
Rawalpindi topple Karachi Whites to top standings
After Imad Wasim was lucky with the toss, Multan got off to a fine start as Mohammad Hafeez crunched successive boundaries on the first two deliveries, but he was quickly sent back when two balls later, Imad darted one in to find Hafeez plumbed LBW.
Multan then suffered another body blow when skipper Sohaib Maqsood (5) simply couldn’t do anything to keep a Sohail Khan delivery that almost crept along the pitch to hit the stumps in the second over.
Multan could have been in huge trouble had Umar Gul not overstepped in the fifth over to reprieve young opener Zeeshan Malik. Zeeshan, then on 10, was the only shining light for Multan since he went on to make a fortuitous 57 off 55 balls (five fours) before he was the last man to fall at 117, giving seamer Shehzad Azam Rana an excellent return of 3-17 in four overs.
Despite his earlier misfortune, Umar Gul still managed to take 2-27 while fellow paceman Ahmed Bashir was also outstanding (2-23).
The magical figure for Islamabad was to get under the required runs in 18.4 overs or less. They did much better than that by reaching 119-3 in 16.4 overs largely because of Asif Ali’s belligerence as Pakistan T20 right-hander bludgeoned a 15-ball 33 smashing three sixes and a brace of fours.
But the man-of-the-match was claimed by opener Abid Ali who yet again underlined his improvement in this format to finish on exactly 50 with his 48-ball knock decorated by five hits to the fence as he and Asif put on 48 for the unbroken fourth-wicket partnership.
With both Karachi Whites and Rawalpindi already assured of their semi-final berths, the day’s opening game was a drab affair. The approach of the Karachi batsmen once Umar Amin had elected to field first indicated where the match was heading.
A dismal score of 122-9 — that included Awais Zia’s 44-ball 48 with the aid of seven fours — was never going to hurt Rawalpindi after left-arm speedster Sadaf Hussain (3-24 in four overs) and the left-arm spin duo of Mohammad Nawaz (2-32) and Khalid Usman (2-17) had done a done sterling job with the white ball.
Man-of-the-Match Naved Malik was savage in his treatment of the Karachi bowlers by smashing five fours and three sixes in a blazing 36-ball 57 while dominating the first-wicket stand of 87 in 11 overs with Nihal Mansoor (run-a-ball 34, three fours and one six).
Umar Amin struck the last nail in Karachi’s coffin as the discarded Pakistan left-hander raced to a 19-ball 28 (four boundaries) when Rawalpindi won with full four overs to spare.
Islamabad bt Multan by seven wickets.
MULTAN 117 in 19 overs (Zeeshan Malik 57; Shehzad Azam Rana 3-17, Ahmed Bashir 2-23, Umar Gul 2-27); ISLAMABAD 119-3 in 16.4 overs (Abid Ali 50 not out, Asif Ali 33 not out; Zulfiqar Babar 2-26).
Rawalpindi bt Karachi Whites by eight wickets.
KARACHI WHITES 122-9 in 20 overs (Awais Zia 48, Fawad Alam 32; Sadaf Hussain 3-24, Khalid Usman 2-17, Mohammad Nawaz 2-32); RAWALPINDI 125-2 in 16 overs (Naved Malik 57 not out, Nihal Mansoor 34, Umar Amin 28 not out).
Monday’s fixtures: First semi-final — Rawalpindi vs Karachi Whites (11:00am); Second semi-final — Lahore Whites vs Islamabad (3:00pm).
(Tabulated under played, won, lost, points, net run-rate):
Rawalpindi 7 5 2 10 +0.255
Lahore Whites 7 4 3 8 +0.413
Karachi Whites 7 4 3 8 +0.256
Islamabad 7 3 4 6 +0.140
Multan 7 3 4 6 -0.187 Fata 7 3 4 6 -0.173
Lahore Blues 7 3 4 6 -0.374
Peshawar 7 3 4 6 -0.506
Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018