Malik, Afridi’s heroics lead KP to clinch National T20 title



Khyber Pakhtunkhwa put up an all-round performance to beat Southern Punjab by 10 runs in the final to clinch the National T20 Cup 2020 at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.
The old war-horse Shoaib Malik’s cameo of 56 n.o. off 22 balls propelled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to a daunting total of 206-4 while three scalps each from bowling duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz ensured that the Southern batsmen do not go beyond 196-8.
Southern Punjab Captain Shan Masood, on Sunday, won the toss and elected to field first. It was the eighth occasion in the tournament when Southern Punjab bowlers had conceded over 200 runs and the total proved too big to achieve for the Southern Punjab in the end. Considering the bench strength of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were the favourites to win but the momentum was with the Southern Punjab team which had a late surge in the tournament and made to the finals by beating current champions in the semi-final.
Though Khyber Pakhtunkhwa openers Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Rizwan scored a healthy 76 for the first wicket partnership by the 10th over but they were precariously placed at 126-3 towards the close of 15th over when Shoaib Malik joined Mohammad Hafeez at the crease. Mohammad Hafeez who scored 38 off 26 balls played by fits and starts and was given three lives due to sloppy fielding of the Southern Punjab fielders before he was caught at deep mid-wicket by Mohammad Ilyas off the bowling of Mohammad Imran in the 19th over with the total at 177-4. Shoaib Malik and Mohamamd Hafeez accumulated 51 runs in 24 balls.
Shoaib Malik and Musadiq Ali hit 29 runs of the remaining 8 balls while 22 runs came off the bat of Shoaib Malik who hit four 6s and three 4s in a high-voltage innings which helped to set a daunting total for the Southern Punjab. Shoaib Malik was especially harsh on Aamer Yamin who conceded 23 runs in his last over of the spell although he conceded only 14 runs in his first three overs and got the all important wicket of Fakhar Zaman who scored 67 off 40 balls laced with three 6s and seven 4s. Mohammad Rizwan did not play a fluent innings and scored only 25 off 30 balls before he was run out from behind the stumps by wicket-keeper Zeeshan Asharf.
Mohammad Ilyas was the most economical bowler from the Southern Punjab who gave away only 28 runs in his spell of four overs while leg spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 32 runs for one wicket. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez were quite harsh on Mohammad Imran and plundered 51 runs off his four overs for the loss of one wicket. Mohammad Abbas also conceded 50 runs with 23 runs from his last overs.
Southern Punjab were themselves to blame for conceding another 200 plus total due to the sloppiness in the field as they dropped five cathes including three of Mohammad Hafeez alone and as the action unfolded these catches proved very costly against a better side like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In reply, Shan Masood, Zeeshan Ashraf and Sohaib Maqsood who had been the architects of Southern Punjab’s passage to the final, through their consistent batting, fell cheaply.—APP

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