Sports Desk Rawalpindi
It was a virtual stroll in the park for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Rawalpindi. The reigning National T20 Cup champions cantered to a 55-run success against a Balochistan side missing their injured captain Imam-ul-Haq after the Pakistan batter had badly hurt himself in the field during Friday’s fixture against Southern Punjab.
With the 18-match first leg schedule at the Pindi Cricket Stadium all set to end on Sunday, it was imperative on the part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to maintain their dominance as they surged to second spot in the six-team standings with this fourth triumph in five outings.
Batting first, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were consistent throughout in posting a healthy 202-5.
And although no one managed a big score, all seven batters got into double figures with Sahibzada Farhan’s 43 being the highest individual score.
Captain Mohammad Rizwan and Israrullah — filling in for the injured Fakhar Zaman — set the pace with a solid opening partnership.
Rizwan’s 40 off 34 balls included five boundaries, while Farhan crunched five fours and one six during his 31-ball stay.
Asif Afridi, who was sent in at No.4, thrashed two sixes in a four-ball cameo of 16. Iftikhar Ahmed was equally belligerent in belting an 18-ball 36 (four fours and two sixes).
The final five-over slot yielded 60 runs largely due to clean hitting from Adil Amin (26 off 13 balls, three fours and one six).
Balochistan’s chase never really took off once they lost Abdul Wahid Bangalzai and stand-in skipper Bismillah Khan in successive overs from Shaheen Shah Afridi. And by the time powerplay ended they had limped to 36-2.
Asif inflicted more pain on Balochistan as his left-arm spin fetched him the wickets of opener Abdullah Shafiq (24 off 20, two sixes), Amad Butt (1) and Kashif Bhatti (8).
The 34-year-old returned incredible figures of 3-8 in four overs to clinch the player-of-the-match award.
When everything seemed lost at 83-7 in the 14th over, Balochistan engineered a belated rearguard action through Sohail Akhtar’s spirited display.
The right-hander stayed defiant until the end to hit an unbeaten 61. His 43-ball contribution was embedded with five sixes and two fours.
Sohail and Umaid Asif (17 off 14, two sixes) were involved in the best stand of the innings as they put on 51 for the eighth wicket before Balochistan — who have now lost four of their six matches — ended their reply at 147-9.
Apart from Shaheen and Asif, Arshad Iqbal was deservedly rewarded. The upcoming pacer claimed three wickets in his two overs, including the prized scalp of Haris Sohail for 17. At the time of filing this report, leaders Sindh were in action against the Babar Azam-led Central Punjab in Saturday’s night fixture.