KARACHI: For the second straight night in Rawalpindi, rains arrived to spoil National T20 Cup action after a fabulous exhibition of power-hitting from discarded Pakistan star Shoaib Malik.
And again it was the fielding side to benefit from the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method of calculations at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Saturday night.
Sindh — winners over Northern late on Friday by three runs in similar circumstances — were at the receiving end this time as Central Punjab roared back in contention for the semi-finals by grabbing a 12-run triumph after rains dented Sindh’s 169-run chase.
Sindh were looking at Anwar Ali for big-hitting but the moment the all-rounder sliced a catch towards Wahab Riaz at deep point, the players scurried off the field — precisely at 10:41pm — as the heavens opened with Sarfaraz Ahmed’s charges down in the mire at 110-6 after 14.4 overs.
While Sharjeel Khan was firing on all cylinders, it was a different story with Sindh very much the favourites to notch up their fifth win in six outings. Their powerplay score of 66 was double that of achieved by Babar Azam’s side.
But the departure of Sharjeel — who launched the chase by adding 48 in 28 balls with Khurram Manzoor for the first wicket — at the total of 80 in the ninth over titled the balance dramatically in favour of Central Punjab. The left-handed powerhouse had bludgeoned 36 off 29 deliveries (three fours and two sixes) before being deceived in the air by upcoming all-rounder Qasim Akram.
Qasim, who bowls off-spin, put Sindh in deeper trouble by having Sarfaraz (7) caught nicely by Babar at short midwicket and then trapping his former Pakistan U-19 team-mate Mohammad Taha LBW for eight to finish a brilliant four-over spell with figures of 3-20.
Earlier in the evening Central Punjab struggled after Babar chose to bat. But the time the 15th over was done and dusted they had slumped to 105-6. But Malik was not going anywhere and yet again proved his real value, given the tons of T20 cricket experience behind him.
The former Pakistan captain produced the innings of the tournament thus far as he unleashed a magnificent 85 from just 47 deliveries. The right-handed stalwart posted his 67th half-century in the format with a stunning assault and went after pacer Mohammad Hasnain off whom he took 22 runs in the 19th over.
Malik’s audacious player-of-the-match performance saw him strike eight fours and five sixes.
Rumman Raees Khan was the standout bowler despite conceding 14 in the final over of the Central Punjab innings. The left-arm seamer claimed 4-33.
Ahmed Shehzad st Sarfaraz b Abrar 35
Babar Azam lbw b Hasnain 12
Mohammad Akhlaq c Hasnain b Rumman 7
Shoaib Malik not out 85
Qasim Akram lbw b Abrar 8
Hussain Talat c Sarfaraz b Rumman 1
Hasan Ali c Sarfaraz b Abrar 12
Wahab Riaz c Khurram b Rumman 3
Ehsan Adil lbw b Rumman 0
Usman Qadir not out 1
EXTRAS (W-4) 4
TOTAL (for eight wkts, 20 overs) 168
FALL OF WKTS: 1-18, 2-29, 3-71, 4-85, 5-92, 6-105, 7-132, 8-154.
DID NOT BAT: Sameen Gul.
BOWLING: Anwar Ali 4-0-34-0 (2w); Mohammad Hasnain 4-0-40-1 (1w); Rumman Raees Khan 4-0-33-4 (1w); Shahnawaz Dahani 4-0-22-0; Abrar Ahmed 4-0-39-3.
Khurram Manzoor b Sameen 14
Sharjeel Khan st Akhlaq b Qasim 36
Shan Masood c Akhlaq b Wahab 12
Saud Shakeel not out 14
Sarfaraz Ahmed c Babar b Qasim 7
Mohammad Taha lbw b Qasim 8
Anwar Ali c Wahab b Sameen 4
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-13, NB-1) 15
TOTAL (for six wkts, 14.4 overs) 110
FALL OF WKTS: 1-48, 2-76, 3-80, 4-88, 5-104, 6-110.
DID NOT BAT: Rumman Raees Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Abrar Ahmed, Shahnawaz Dahani.
BOWLING: Ehsan Adil 2-0-21-0; Sameen Gul 2.4-0-15-2; Hasan Ali 2-0-18-0 (1nb); Qasim Akram 4-0-20-3; Wahab Riaz 2-0-11-1; Usman Qadir 2-0-11-0.
RESULT: Central Punjab won by 12 runs (DLS Method).
UMPIRES: Imtiaz Iqbal and Saqib Khan.
TV UMPIRE: Nasir Hussain.
MATCH REFEREE: Iftikhar Ahmed.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Shoaib Malik (Central Punjab).
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2021