Taha stays cool as sluggish Sindh stutter to victory

Sports Desk

With the prospects of coping with the dew factor in the National T20 Cup semi-final, Sindh missed out avoiding the inevitable with a sluggish five-wicket win over the already-eliminated Balochistan on Monday.

On a Gaddafi Stadium pitch heavily loaded in favour of spinners, even chasing a negligible 114 became as arduous as climbing a mountain.

Sindh — who had come into this fixture having already been already guaranteed a last-four following Balochistan’s loss to Central Punjab the other night — were grateful to their novice batter Mohammad Taha, who came of age with a high-class knock-in extremely trying conditions as the ball spun square.

In pale sunshine, the pre-match mood was already gloomy after the Sindh camp reported their skipper Anwar Ali — initially named as vice-captain until Sarfaraz Ahmed’s unexpected selection for the T20 World Cup — had flown back to Karachi upon learning his ailing mother had passed away in the wee hours of Monday.

The familiar sight of the white-ball flying into the stands in this form of cricket with regularity was conspicuously missing and the entire game saw just two such strikes.

And both times, it was Sohail Akhtar, who was handed the reins after regular captain Imam-ul-Haq opted to sit out what from Balochistan’s viewpoint became inconsequential encounter.

The funereal pace at which Balochistan went about their batting after Shan Masood — filling in as captain in Anwar’s forced absence for rest of the tournament— depicted the atmosphere in which teams played.

The beginning was bright enough when Abdullah Shafiq (22 off 26 balls) and Abdul Wahid Bangalzai added 54 for the first wicket.

Both openers, however, departed in space of three deliveries. Thereafter, the remaining batters mustered just 59 more runs, out of which Sohail scored 37 from 36 balls.

As it was evident, slow bowlers were used in abundance by both sides but none stood out as did the unorthodox Abrar Ahmed, who returned figures of 2-15.

Sindh suffered a setback on the second ball of their chase when Sharjeel Khan virtually ran himself out through ridiculous running without even facing a ball.

Shan Masood uncharacteristically lost his composure when unnecessarily charged at a tossed-up delivery from Mohammad Ibrahim and was smartly stumped by Hidayatullah for 18.

The 21-year-old southpaw from Karachi stayed undeterred while the likes of senior pros perished to soft dismissals, given the tons of experience behind them.

Arriving at 19-2 after Khurram Manzoor was caught in the covers in a futile attempt to hit slow left-armer Kashif Bhatti, Taha anchored Sindh home by finishing on a 48-ball 47 (four boundaries).

Danish Aziz contributed 19 in the unbroken partnership of 39 with Taha, who deservingly got the player-of-the-match award.

It seems certain Sindh will remain either second — which they currently are — or third in the final team standings whatever the result of the last league-stage game between Northern and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday night.

BALOCHISTAN: Abdullah Shafiq c Taha b Danish 22 Abdul W. Bangalzai c and b Abrar 29 Sohail Akhtar not out 37 Mohammad Ibrahim st Afzal b Abrar 1 Hidayatullah c Taha b Rumman 9 Umaid Asif run out 5 Kashif Bhatti not out 5 EXTRAS (B-1, W-4) 5 TOTAL (for five wkts, 20 overs) 113 FALL OF WKTS: 1-54, 2-54, 3-56, 4-78, 5-96. DID NOT BAT: Najeebullah Achakzai, Mohammad Mohsin, Junaid Khan, Taj Wali.

BOWLING: Mir Hamza 4-0-28-0(3w); Rumman Raees Khan 4-0-25-1 (1w); Mohammad Hasnain 3-0-27-0; Abrar Ahmed 4-0-15-2; Danish Aziz 4-0-14-1; Mohammad Taha 1-0-3-0.

SINDH: Khurram Manzoor c Sohail b Kashif 11 Sharjeel Khan run out 0 Shan Masood st Hidayatullah b Ibrahim 18 Mohammad Taha not out 47 Hasan Mohsin c Umaid b Ibrahim 6 Mohammad Afzal b Mohsin 9 Danish Aziz not out 19 EXTRAS (B-1, W-6) 7 TOTAL(for five wkts, 18.4 overs) 117 FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-19, 3-53, 4-61, 5-78.

DID NOT BAT: Rumman Raees Khan, Mir Hamza, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Hasnain. BOWLING: Junaid Khan 3-0-20-0 (1w); Najeebullah Achakzai 1-0-8-0; Kashif Bhatti 3-0-13-1; Umaid Asif 1.4-0-14-0; Mohammad Ibrahim 4-0-24-2; Mohammad Mohsin 4-0-27-1 (1w); Sohail Akhtar 1-0-2-0; Taj Wali 1-0-8-0. RESULT: Sindh won by five wickets.

UMPIRES: Asif Yaqoob and Rashid Riaz. TV UMPIRE: Shozab Raza. MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed. PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Mohammad Taha (Sindh). TUESDAY’S FIXTURES: First semi-final — Team No.1 vs Team No.4 (3:00pm PST); Second semi-final — Team No.2 vs Team No. 3 (7:30pm PST).

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