Khyber Pakhtunkhwa put up an all-round performance to beat Southern Punjab by 10 runs in the final to clinch the National T20 Cup 2020 at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Shoaib Malik's cameo of 56 not-out off 22 balls propelled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to a daunting total of 206-4 while three wickets each from bowling duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz ensured that the Southern batsmen do not go beyond 196-8.
Southern Punjab Captain Shan Masood won the toss and elected to field first.
It was the eighth occasion in the tournament when Southern Punjab bowlers conceded over 200 runs and the total proved too big to achieve for the team in the end. Considering the bench strength of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were the favourites to win but the momentum was with the Southern Punjab team which had a late surge in the tournament and made to the finals by beating current champions in the semi-final.
Though Khyber Pakhtunkhwa openers Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Rizwan scored a healthy 76 for the first wicket partnership by the 10th over, they were precariously placed at 126-3 towards the close of the 15th over when Shoaib Malik joined Mohammad Hafeez at the crease.
Hafeez who scored 38 off 26 balls played by fits and starts and was given three chances due to sloppy fielding of the Southern Punjab fielders before he was caught at deep mid-wicket by Mohammad Ilyas off the bowling of Mohammad Imran in the 19th over with total at 177-4. Malik and Mohammad Hafeez accumulated 51 runs in 24 balls.
Malik and Musadiq Ali hit 29 runs of the remaining eight balls, 22 of which came off the bat of Shoaib Malik who hit four sixes and three fours in a high-voltage innings which helped to set a daunting total for Southern Punjab.
Malik was especially harsh on Aamer Yamin who conceded 23 runs in his last over of the spell although he conceded only 14 runs in his first three overs and got the all-important wicket of Zaman who scored 67 off 40 balls laced with three sixes and seven fours.
Rizwan did not play a fluent inning and scored only 25 off 30 balls before he was run out from behind the stumps by wicket-keeper Zeeshan Ashraf.
Ilyas was the most economical bowler from Southern Punjab who gave away only 28 runs in his spell of four overs while leg spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 32 runs for one wicket. Malik and Hafeez were quite harsh on Imran and plundered 51 runs off his four overs for the loss of one wicket. Mohammad Abbas also conceded 50 runs with 23 runs from his last few overs.
Southern Punjab were themselves to blame for conceding another 200-plus total due to the sloppiness in the field as they dropped five catches including three from Hafeez alone and as the action unfolded these catches proved very costly against a better side like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In reply, Masood, Ashraf and Sohaib Maqsood who had been the architects of Southern Punjab's passage to the final, through their consistent batting, fell cheaply. It was the pace and swing of Shaheen Shah Afridi who got the better of Masood and Maqsood on consecutive deliveries in only the third over of the Southern Punjab innings.
Masood (seven off seven) was caught in the slips by Iftikhar Ahmed off while Maqsood (zero off one) was caught off-hand and fell on the first ball off a swinging Yorker.
Ashraf who had scored easily so far in the tournament could only score 16 off 19 balls and was caught off the bowling of Wahab Riaz in an effort to up the run rate with the score on 34-3 in the 6th over.
The two young all-rounders Hussain Talat and Khushdil Shah challenged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bowlers in a partnership of 74 runs in seven overs but the hopes of a miraculous chase were somewhat dented when Shah got out in the 13th over with the total at 108-4 scoring 34 off 22 balls. Talat reached his 50 off 27 balls in the 13th over.
Southern Punjab's chances of overhauling the 200 plus total were somewhat dashed after Talat was spectacularly caught at long-off by Malik off the bowling of experienced Riaz. Malik, defying his age, exhibited excellent athleticism when he ran full throttle to his right and took a blinder to smother all hopes of the Southerners to lift the much-coveted trophy.
Afridi and Riaz were the most successful bowlers for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who grabbed three wickets each and conceded 36 runs each in their quota of four overs each. Afridi drew first blood and accounted for two wickets in the third over of the innings.
Imran Khan (Sr) was the most economical bowler of the match who conceded 22 runs off his four overs without any success. Usman Shinwari, who provided the all-important wicket of Khushdil Shah, was the costliest of all KP bowlers and conceded 47 runs in his four overs.
Shinwari conceded 20 runs in the 20th over when he was hit for three sixes by Southern Punjab all-rounder Imran.
Malik was declared man of the match for his heroic knock of 56 not out in the finals while Zaman was declared player of the series.