LAHORE: Central Punjab’s Hussain Talat takes the aerial route on his way to an unbeaten 68 as Sindh captain Sarfaraz Ahmed looks during the National T20 Cup match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.—M. Arif/White Star
LAHORE: Central Punjab’s Hussain Talat takes the aerial route on his way to an unbeaten 68 as Sindh captain Sarfaraz Ahmed looks during the National T20 Cup match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.—M. Arif/White Star

LAHORE: Even without Babar Azam taking the field at start of second leg in Lahore, Central Punjab nonchalantly prevailed against fierce rivals Sindh for the second time to march into the semi-finals of the ongoing National T20 Cup.

Wednesday’s opening fixture exactly didn’t provide the usual fanfare on a Gaddafi Stadium pitch that was initially made to appear by Sindh tough to bat on. Having won their truncated encounter — decided by the DLS Method — during the first leg in Rawalpindi, Central Punjab not only completed a grand double but also toppled the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led side at the top of the leaderboard.

The eight-wicket success — with 26 balls to spare — was actually set up by the excellence of Faheem Ashraf with the new ball after Hasan Ali, standing in for Babar as skipper, inserted Sindh into bat. The last of that opening over saw Sharjeel Khan pulling the first delivery the left-hander faced straight down the lap of Babar’s replacement Saif Badar inside the square leg boundary.

Faheem then virtually put his team in driving seat when Khurram Manzoor went for a wild heave but only found his stumps rattled. With two down for nine runs, Sindh never stood any chance of pulling it back.

By the time Powerplay concluded, Saud Shakeel and Ahsan Ali — one of the four changes in the playing XI — had also perished. Saud was undone by Hasan’s subtle change in pace as the left-hander was superbly caught by Faheem, who had to sprint from mid o to mid off to hold the high ball.

Ahsan appeared in good touch during his first outing in the competition as he crashed three fours and a six in an 11-ball 23. But his stay was terminated by Wahab Riaz, who induced an edge to Kamran Akmal. The batter was sent on his way after TV umpire confirmed it being a clean take by the wicket-keeper.

Sarfaraz, however, rectified the damage inflicted on his top order with a typically spirited counterattack to bring up his second half-century in the tournament. The 34-year-old Pakistan stalwart’s undefeated 54 from 37 deliveries (five fours and one six) lifted Sindh to 128-7, with Danish Aziz and Anwar Ali also playing their part with 20 runs apiece.

Central Punjab’s chase got off to a jittery start as Kamran got a faint edge through Sarfaraz when the ex-Pakistan star tried to flick Mir Hamza — who had come in place of his fellow left-arm seamer Rumman Raees Khan — but was gone.

Ahmed Shehzad crunched three boundaries in making 20 (14 balls) but the former Pakistan opener but lazy running cost him dearly as Anwar threw down the stumps at the non-striker end.

Thereafter there was no way Central Punjab were letting Sindh to claw back into contention as Hussain Talat gleefully capitalised on his elevation to No.3 with splendid contribution of 68. The left-hander showcased a brilliant range of strokes to strike eight fours and a six during his 52-ball effort that won him the player-of-the-match award.

Shoaib Malik, meanwhile, sent out another forceful message to the national chief selector Mohammad Wasim as the seasoned campaigner stamped his authority yet again. The veteran scored a breezy 40 this time and along with Hussain stitched together an unbroken partnership of 98 from only 67 balls.

Appropriately, it was left to Malik to finish the match by pulling Anwar to the fence for the fourth four of his 25-ball knock, which also featured a monstrous hit over long on against leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood, who also was pulled for a six by Hussain.

Scoreboard

SINDH:

Khurram Manzoor b Faheem 2

Sharjeel Khan c Saif b Faheem 0

Ahsan Ali c Kamran b Wahab 23

Saud Shakeel c Faheem b Hasan 5

Sarfaraz Ahmed not out 54

Danish Aziz c Malik b Usman 20

Anwar Ali run out 20

Zahid Mahmood b Hasan 1

Mohammad Hasnain not out 0

EXTRAS (LB-1, W-2) 3

TOTAL (for seven wkts, 20 overs) 128

FALL OF WKTS: 1-2, 2-9, 3-31, 4-32, 5-67, 6-108, 7-112.

DID NOT BAT: Mir Hamza, Shahnawaz Dahani.

BOWLING: Faheem Ashraf 4-0-19-2 (1w); Sameen Gul 4-0-28-0; Hasan Ali 4-0-31-2 (1w); Wahab Riaz 4-1-28-1; Usman Qadir 4-0-21-1.

CENTRAL PUNJAB:

Ahmed Shehzad run out 20

Kamran Akmal c Sarfaraz b Hamza 1

Hussain Talat not out 68

Shoaib Malik not out 40

EXTRAS (W-2) 2

TOTAL (for two wkts, 15.4 overs) 131 FALL OF WKTS: 1-15, 2-33.

DID NOT BAT: Saif Badar, Qasim Akram, Faheem Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Usman Qadir, Sameen Gul.

BOWLING: Mir Hamza 4-0-29-1 (1w); Mohammad Hasnain 3-0-25-0; Shahnawaz Dahani 3-0-20-0; Zahid Mahmood 3-0-31-0; Danish Aziz

1-0-6-0; Anwar Ali 1.4-0-20- (1w).

RESULT: Central Punjab won by eight wickets.

UMPIRES: Asif Yaqoob and Shozab Raza.

TV UMPIRE: Waleed Yaqub.

MATCH REFEREE: Ali Naqvi.

PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Hussain Talat (Central Punjab).

THURSDAY’S FIXTURES: Central Punjab vs Southern Punjab (3:00pm PST); Khyber Pakhtunkhwa vs Balochistan (7:30pm PST).

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2021

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