KARACHI: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa marched through to the last-four phase of the First National T20 Cup on Monday after completing a 73-run demolition of Southern Punjab in their second-leg fixture in Rawalpindi.
In one of the most one-sided encounters witnessed in T20 cricket, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa fired on all cylinders from ball one at the Pindi Cricket Stadium and never gave any room to their bottom-placed opponents, who capitulated to their sixth loss in seven games.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s fifth victory from seven fixtures catapulted them above Balochistan into second place behind reigning champions Northern. Southern Punjab are firmly rooted at the base after going down for the sixth time in seven outings and mathematically, they are out of the equation for the knockout round.
Shan Masood was left to rue his decision to insert the opposition into bat when Fakhar Zaman carved 11 boundaries and two sixes in a hurricane 34-ball knock of 68 that set the platform of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s total of 205-4. But it was relative unknown Musadiq Ahmed who stole thunder at the death with a sensational nine-ball cameo of 33. The 31-year-old from Nowshera blasted three sixes and three fours during the unbroken partnership of 43 with Shoaib Malik, who also made 33 but from 28 deliveries with one hit to the fence.
Fakhar dominated the early stage of the innings after skipper Mohammad Rizwan was cleaned up by Aamir Yamin for 12, and comfortably outscored Mohammad Hafeez (17 off 20 balls) during the second-wicket stand of 71 in 42 balls.
Malik and Iftikhar Ahmed (36 off 22, four sixes) put on a further 62 for the fourth wicket before the Musadiq show lit up the otherwise empty stadium.
Southern Punjab’s chase got off to the worst possible start when captain Shan Masood perished on the third delivery of the innings to the fiery Pakistan speedster Shaheen Shah Afridi, caught by Iftikhar without opening his account.
Fellow left-handed opener Zain Abbas looked good in making 34 off 21 balls (three fours and two sixes) but apart from all-rounder Mohammad Imran, who slammed a career-best 48 (28 balls, six fours and two sixes) before being the last man dismissed, no one else showed any stomach to challenge the bowling. The tragic part of their dismal display was when all-rounder Aamir Yamin was run out without facing a single ball.
Fakhar, who also held a brilliant diving catch when Sohaib Maqsood mistimed an attempted pull in the eighth over off Junaid Khan, was later adjudged man-of-the-match.
Sindh, in the meantime, put their semi-final hopes back on the track late on Sunday night when they defeated Balochistan for the first time in three matches across two seasons. Their third success in seven fixtures was shepherded by a captain’s knock from ex-Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed.
The gutsy wicket-keeper/batsman showed intent and looked very determined to ensure Sindh clinch their second straight win — having beaten Central Punjab by three wickets on Saturday night — by chasing down 174 with five balls to spare.
Sarfaraz played a major role with his first significant score in a while. The 33-year-old struck six boundaries and a six in his 28-ball 44 and got out when Sindh needed just two runs when he lobbed a simple catch down the throat of Akbar-ur-Rehman.
Despite his match-winning effort, Sarfaraz had to share the man-of-the-mach prize with Balochistan opener Imam-ul-Haq, who batted through the innings to make a 60-ball 92 with the aid of 11 boundaries, while falling only short of matching his best T20 score of 94.
When this report was being filed on Monday night, second-placed Balochistan were in action against Central Punjab, who are currently languishing in fifth spot in the six-team standings.
Scores in brief:
Played on Monday:
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beat Southern Punjab by 73 runs.
KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 205-4 in 20 overs (Fakhar Zaman 68, Iftikhar Ahmed 36, Shoaib Malik 33 not out, Musadiq Ahmed 33 not out; Aamir Yamin 2-36, Mohammad Ilyas 2-43); SOUTHERN PUNJAB 132 in 19.3 overs (Mohammad Imran 48, Zain Abbas 36; Junaid Khan 2-31).
Played on Sunday night:
Sindh beat Balochistan by four wickets.
BALOCHISTAN 173-3 in 20 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 92 not out, Abdul Wahid Bangalzai 32); SINDH 174-6 in 19.1 overs (Sarfaraz Ahmed 44, Asad Shafiq 30, Hassaan Khan 28 not out, Azam Khan 27; Amad Butt 2-26, Khurram Shehzad 2-37).
Tuesday’s fixtures: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa vs Sindh (3:00pm); Central Punjab vs Southern Punjab (7:30pm).
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2020