KARACHI: Despite being something of an enigma at the international level, Asif Ali sent out a strong reminder he can be a real force with the willow and the finisher Pakistan had been desperately searching for.
The 29-year-old batter, one of the stunning selections on the Twenty20 World Cup-bound Pakistan squad, produced a typical act of belligerence to enable former National T20 Cup champions Northern to launch the third edition with a clinical six-wicket rout of Balochistan in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
The Pindi Cricket Stadium was peppered with four sixes and three fours by Asif who made short work of the 140-run chase, which Northern accomplished with ridicule ease when Asif crunched left-arm seamer Akif Javed for a maximum.
While Asif — who hit up 43 from only 20 balls — was the major contributor in the unbroken partnership of 51 in 27 deliveries, Haider Ali played the role of sheet-anchor to perfection.
Haider, who turns 21 on Oct 2, had come into the domestic competition after a horrendous run in the recent Caribbean Premier League where he recorded seven successive single-digit scores for Jamaica Tallawahs. But the youngster, adjudged player-of the-match, registered his sixth 50 in the format by scoring 58 from 41 balls, while striking seven boundaries and two sixes.
Earlier in the day, Balochistan’s innings never really took off after Shadab Khan opted to bowl first. Barring a late charge from Amad Butt — the top scorer with a 24-ball 34 (two sixes and two fours) and Kashif Bhatti (24), they only managed 139-7 on the back of that 66-run stand in 50 balls stitched together by the two all-rounders.
Haris Rauf, another one still trying to make his mark in international cricket, bowled tidily to grab two wickets for 17 runs. Spinning all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz also picked up a brace, while slow left-armer Imad Wasim didn’t find any success but had the satisfaction of delivering the solitary maiden — the last of the powerplay — of the entire match.
When this report was being filed, Central Punjab, skippered by Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam, were in action against the Mohammad Rizwan-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who are defending the title.
Imam-ul-Haq b Sohail 6
Abdul W. Bangalzai c Zeeshan b Nawaz 24
Bismillah Khan c Rohail b Zaman 10
Akbar-ur-Rehman b Nawaz 24
Ayaz Tasawwar c Rohail b Haris 4
Amad Butt run out 34
Kashif Bhatti b Haris 24
Umaid Asif not out 2
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-7, W-1, NB-2) 11
TOTAL (for seven wkts, 20 overs) 139
FALL OF WKTS: 1-6, 2-26, 3-50, 4-68, 5-70, 6-136, 7-139.
DID NOT BAT: Yasir Shah, Akif Javed, Junaid Khan.
BOWLING: Sohail Tanvir 3-0-24-1 (1nb); Zaman Khan 2-0-15-1; Imad Wasim 4-1-24-0 (1w); Shadab Khan 3-0-20-0; Mohammad Nawaz 4-0-31-2; Haris Rauf 4-0-18-2 (1nb).
Umar Amin c Bismillah b Akif 2
Zeeshan Malik b Amad 19
Haider Ali not out 58
Shadab Khan c Akif b Kashif 10
Rohail Nazir c Akif b Yasir 6
Asif Ali not out 43
EXTRAS (W-2) 2
TOTAL (for four wkts, 17 overs) 140
FALL OF WKTS: 1-14, 2-63, 3-73, 4-89.
DID NOT BAT: Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Sohail Tanvir, Haris Rauf, Zaman Khan.
BOWLING: Akif Javed 4-0-27-1; Junaid Khan 1-0-13-0; Umaid Asif 2-0-20-0 (2w); Amad Butt 2-0-25-1; Yasir Shah 4-0-23-1; Kashif Bhatti 4-0-32-1.
RESULT: Northern won by six wickets.
UMPIRES: Ghaffar Kazmi and Mohammad Asif.
TV UMPIRE: Imran Javed.
MATCH REFEREE: Nadeem Arshad.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Haider Ali.
FRIDAY’S FIXTURES: Sindh vs Southern Punjab (3:00pm PST); Central Punjab vs Balochistan (7:30pm PST).
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021