KARACHI: Riding on a century opening partnership after their bowlers had done a fabulous job, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa outclassed Sindh by eight wickets to sail into the final of the National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi on Saturday night.
The second semi-final of the First XI competition at the Pindi Cricket Stadium lacked the competitiveness and was almost replicated the first last-four clash earlier in the evening during which Southern Punjab dethroned Northern by seven wickets with consummate ease.
When this report was being filed the final was underway on Sunday night between two sides who lost at the semi-final stage of the tournament in Faisalabad last year.
The Sarfaraz Ahmed-led Sindh were hardly up for the challenge once Mohammad Rizwan inserted them into bat at the toss. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had their rivals in serious trouble by taking three quick wickets upfront in the space of 17 deliveries.
The burly Sharjeel Khan had played all over the first ball he faced from Shaheen Shah Afridi, which swung away to uproot the off stump as the left-hander got himself squared up while moving forward to defend.
Asad Shafiq — next man in — was well caught in the gulley by Asif Afridi for just a single run as the diminutive right-hander failed to cover the line against paceman Imran Khan.
Sindh then suffered a massive blow when the portly Azam Khan was run out without facing a ball after being sent back by Khurram Manzoor. Shoaib Malik made no mistake in throwing down the stumps at the non-striker end.
With three down for 10 runs, Sindh needed to regroup but their ploy of using Sohail Khan as the pinch-hitter failed when he fell to Imran for nine. The precarious situation demanded a sensible approach from Sarfaraz but the former Pakistan captain inexplicably took unnecessary risk and paid the ultimate price as an attempted sweep was top edge to square leg where Imran almost made a mess of a relatively simple chance but clung onto on the second attempt.
With Sarfaraz gone for just four, Sindh were falling apart at 47-5 after nine overs but Khurram stood firm. Together with Danish Aziz, Khurram revived the innings as the pair put on exactly 80 in 49 balls. Tragedy then derailed Sindh’s hopes of posting a challenging total when Khurram — who looked the only top-order batsman to keep battling — was run out in trying to complete the second run.
The discarded Pakistan opener had just become the first player in the tournament to surpass 400 runs (408 to be exact) when departed in at the start of the 18th over. The right-hander’s 74 from 57 balls included eight fours and two sixes.
The left-handed Danish, who left a lasting impression on the national selectors with several notable knocks, tried to up the ante but a wild heave at left-arm paceman Usman Khan Shinwari saw his middle stump take a walk. He contributed a 27-ball 39 with the aid of three sixes.
Sindh were eventually bowled out on the penultimate ball of their innings for 142 with Imran and Usman sharing four wickets between them, each returning identical analysis of 2-19 in three overs.
In sharp contrast to Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chase was smooth as it could be. Fakhar Zaman helped himself to a fourth half-century — and second against Sindh in this event — by motoring to 57 in typical style as the 30-year-old Pakistan left-hander bludgeoned eight fours and two sixes during his 29-ball stay.
Danish picked up both wickets to fall. Fakhar was caught behind in trying to cut an arm ball after the first-wicket stand had realized 113 with Rizwan. The captain then departed to a well-judged catch by Sharjeel who had to sprint in from deep cover. The Pakistan wicket-keeper/batsman, who had crunched 11 boundaries in making 67 from 50 balls, was later named man-of-the-match.
The last rites were completed by the familiar pairing of Mohammad Hafeez (12) and Shoaib Malik, who pulled a no-ball from Danish to the boundary to signal Sindh’s exit from the competition.
Khurram Manzoor run out 74
Sharjeel Khan b Shaheen 0
Asad Shafiq c Asif b Imran 1
Azam Khan run out 0
Sohail Khan c Iftikhar b Imran 9
Sarfaraz Ahmed c Imran b Asif 4
Danish Aziz b Usman 39
Anwar Ali c Rizwan b Usman 3
Hassaan Khan not out 8
Mohammad Hasnain b Wahab 1
Ghulam Mudassar run out 1
EXTRAS (W-2) 2
TOTAL (all out, 19.5 overs) 142
FALL OF WKTS: 1-5, 2-10, 3-10, 4-39, 5-47, 6-127, 7-132, 8-133, 9-134.
BOWLING: Shaheen Shah Afridi
4-0-28-1; Imran Khan 3-0-19-2 (1w); Usman Khan Shinwari 3-0-19-2 (1w); Wahab Riaz 3.5-0-39-1; Asif Afridi 3-0-20-1; Iftikhar Ahmed 2-0-13-0; Shoaib Malik 1-0-4-0.
Fakhar Zaman c Sarfaraz b Danish 57
M. Rizwan c Sharjeel b Danish 67
Mohammad Hafeez not out 12
Shoaib Malik not out 6
EXTRAS (W-2, NB-2) 4
TOTAL (for two wkts, 14.5 overs) 146
FALL OF WKTS: 1-113, 2-136.
DID NOT BAT: Iftikhar Ahmed, Musadiq Ahmed, Asif Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shinwari, Imran Khan.
BOWLING: Sohail Khan 2-0-19-0 (1nb); Ghulam Mudassar 2-0-20-0 (1w); Mohammad Hasnain 4-0-40-0 (1w); Hassaan Khan 2-0-17-0; Danish Aziz 3.5-0-35-2 (1nb); Anwar Ali 1-0-15-0.
RESULT: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa won by eight wickets.
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza and Shozab Raza.
TV UMPIRE: Ghaffar Kazmi.
MATCH REFEREE: Ali Naqvi.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Mohammad Rizwan.