LAHORE: Former National T20 Cup champions Northern completed a dramatic turnaround against leaders Central Punjab in Lahore on Friday.
And the hero of their last-over victory by five wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium was the 25-year-old Aamir Jamal, who claimed the player-of-the-match prize on debut in the format. After spearheading Northern’s brilliant comeback in the first half with the ball, the Mianwali-born cricketer produced a game-changing effort with the bat.
While both these teams are virtually through to the knockout phase with five wins apiece, Northern were down and out for the count when Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Akhlaq went on the rampage after stand-in skipper Wahab Riaz had opted to bat first on a searing late afternoon.
The Central Punjab pair shared the highest opening stand of the current edition as clattered boundaries to all parts of the ground to put on 124 in just 73 balls. Despite being no longer in the Pakistan frame, Shehzad is still one of the best openers in the country and his innings of 77 from just 45 balls was another proof of his standing,
Shehzad — who blazed to 50 in 26 balls — struck 10 fours and one six, while Akhlaq was equal to the task with a cavalier 41-ball knock of 61.
But all credit to the Northern bowlers for restricting Central Punjab to 194-5 in the end. Aamir, who bowls at a decent pace, grabbed the key wickets of Shehzad, Shoaib Malik (19 off 14) and Faheem Ashraf (12 off 7) to finish with 3-38.
Ali Imran set the stage for the chase with a ballistic 55 off only 32 deliveries. The 23-year-old right-hander, playing in his 18th T20 match, banged five sixes and three fours after the early demise of Nasir Nawaz. The opener outscored Haider Ali — who had a day to remember when he was inducted in the revised Pakistan squad for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup — during their second-wicket stand of 92 in 56 balls.
Haider, who also surpassed 300 runs for the competition, fell to spinner Qasim Akram after striking a 29-ball 37 that included three fours and a six. After Umar Amin — taking over the mantle of leadership from Shadab Khan for rest of the tournament — and Mubasir Khan (22 off 14, two sixes) went, the game was very much in favour of the fielding side.
Aamir (27 off 14, five fours) and Rohail Nazir (26 off 13, three fours and one six), however, had other ideas. In a matter of just 25 balls, they guided Northern over the line with the partnership yielding exactly 50 when Rohail slapped Faheem for the winning boundary.
Ahmed Shehzad b Aamir 77
Mohammad Akhlaq b Sohail 61
Hussain Talat b Zaman 11
Shoaib Malik c Ali Imran b Aamir 19
Faheem Ashraf c Rohail b Aamir 12
Saif Badar not out 8
Mohammad Faizan not out 1
EXTRAS (W-3, NB-2) 5
TOTAL (for five wkts, 20 overs) 194
FALL OF WKTS: 1-124, 2-150, 3-158, 4-184, 5-185.
DID NOT BAT: Qasim Akram, Wahab Riaz, Zafar Gohar, Waqas Maqsood.
BOWLING: Sohail Tanvir 4-0-36-1; Zaman Khan 4-0-29-1 (1nb, 1w); Salman Irshad
4-0-56-0; Nauman Ali 4-0-35-0; Aamir Jamal 4-0-38-3 (1nb, 1w).
Nasir Nawaz c Malik b Faheem 10
Ali Imran c Akhlaq b Hussain 55
Haider Ali c Zafar b Qasim 37
Umar Amin c Shehzad b Qasim 13
Mubasir Khan c Zafar b Hussain 22
Aamir Jamal not out 27
Rohail Nazir not out 26
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-4) 5
TOTAL (for five wkts, 19.3 overs) 195
FALL OF WKTS: 1-10, 2-102, 3-106, 4-125, 5-145.
DID NOT BAT: Sohail Tanvir, Nauman Ali, Salman Irshad, Zaman Khan.
BOWLING: Faheem Ashraf 3.3-0-40-1; Waqas Maqsood 4-0-42-0 (2w); Wahab Riaz 4-0-41-0 (1w); Zafar Gohar 2-0-20-0; Hussain Talat 4-0-36-2 (1w); Qasim Akram 2-0-15-2.
RESULT: Northern won by five wickets.
UMPIRES: Asif Yaqoob and Rashid Riaz.
TV UMPIRE: Waleed Yaqub.
MATCH REFEREE: Ali Naqvi.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Aamir Jamal (Northern).
SATURDAY’S FIXTURES: Sindh vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (3:00pm PST); Southern Punjab vs Northern (7:30pm PST).
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021