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Mukhtar lights up T20 action with blazing century

Mukhtar lights up T20 action with blazing century

RAWALPINDI: Young Pakistan opener Mukhtar Ahmed set ablaze the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Tuesday with a dazzling century as favourites Sialkot launched their Cool & Cool presents Haier Mobile T20 Cup campaign with a hard-earned win against Karachi Whites.

The 22-year-old right-hander bludgeoned 123 — the highest knock by a Pakistan player in the history of T20 cricket — from only 67 balls to help six-time nation champions post a commanding 198-5.

Karachi Whites almost pulled off a miraculous victory from the jaws of defeat before going down by just seven runs in an enthralling Group ‘A’ match. They needed 30 from the last over bowled by debutant seamer Ammad Butt.

Veteran Tariq Haroon almost took his side striking 6, 4, 4, 6 from the first four deliveries but Ammad then produced a dot ball and conceded only two from the last ball as Karachi Whites ended up making 191-6.

Batting in a carefree manner, Mukhtar struck 18 boundaries and three sixes after Shoaib Malik decided to bat first upon winning the toss. His teenaged Pakistan team-mate Nauman Anwar looked pedestrian in comparison as the pair blasted 125 in 73 balls for the first wicket.

Nauman perished after reaching 51 off 34 balls with seven fours and one six before paceman Mir Hamza brought Karachi Whites into the game with a brilliant 19th over during Sialkot lost three wickets for three runs.

Mukhtar’s second T20 century — he hit 100 against Karachi Dolphins in last year’s tournament at Karachi — surpassed the national record held by Imran Farhat, who made 115 for Lahore Eagles against Multan Tigers at Karachi in 2006.

Former Pakistan Under-19 batsman Ahsan Ali was the mainstay of Karachi Whites’ reply with a career-best 76 (46 balls, seven fours and four sixes).

Lahore Whites also were made to struggle before completing an unconvincing three-wicket win against Islamabad in the Group ‘B’ game at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

Fine knocks from Babar Azam (unbeaten 59 off 50 balls, six fours and one six) and skipper Imad Wasim (38 not out off 19 with four fours and one six) guided Islamabad to 168-3.

Ahmed Shehzad then clattered seven boundaries and two sixes in a 23-ball 48 to give Lahore Whites a perfect platform.

But Islamabad clawed back with three wickets in the closing overs before Saad Nasim struck paceman Shehzad Azam Rana for two boundaries to steer his side home on the penultimate ball of the match.

In the two matches played at the Marghazar Cricket Ground in Islamabad, Hyderabad clinched a shock eight-wicket victory against Multan in the Group ‘A’ clash and Karachi Blues coasting home by seven wickets against Abbottabad.

Sharjeel Khan led from the front with blistering 91 to give national selectors strong nudge in the opening fixture of the main round. The left-hander bludgeoned 13 boundaries and four sixes during his 45-ball innings before Faisal Athar’s undefeated 56 (41 balls, six fours) guided Hyderabad to 190-2 in the 19th over.

Earlier, Sohaib Maqsood made a welcome return from injury in his first match since the World Cup quarter-final against Australia last March to score a splendid 77 (50 balls, 10 fours and three sixes) while adding 109 for the fourth wicket with Naved Yasin (55 not out from 31 balls with four fours and three sixes) as Multan posted a healthy 186-4.

Younis Khan’s 51 (34 balls, five fours and three sixes) rescued Abbottabad from the shock of losing Fakhar Zaman and skipper Yasir Hameed for ducks to fast bowler Mohammad Sami in the first over of the Group ‘B’ tie after Sarfraz Ahmed opted to field first at the toss.

But a total of 153-8 was not enough and Karachi Blues — who had to qualify for the main round — continued their winning run thanked to an unfinished partnership of 90 between Khalid Latif (65 off 36 balls, six fours and four fours) and Fawad Alam (45 off 31, six fours and one six).

When this report was being filed, Rawalpindi were playing under lights at the Pindi Cricket Stadium against Bahawalpur, who ousted Lahore Blues in the qualifying tournament semi-final to make the main round, in Tuesday’s fifth and last fixture.

Tuesday’s results:

Group ‘A’:

At Marghazar Cricket Ground, Islamabad: Hyderabad beat Multan by eight wickets.

MULTAN 186-4 in 20 overs (Sohaib Maqsood 77, Naved Yasin 55, Kashif Naved 26 not out; Nasir Awais 2-33); HYDERABAD 190-2 in 18.4 overs (Sharjeel Khan 91, Faisal Athar 56, Lal Kumar 23 not out).

At Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi: Sialkot beat Karachi Whites by seven runs.

SIALKOT 198-5 in 20 overs (Mukhtar Ahmed 123, Nauman Anwar 51; Mir Hamza 2-30); KARACHI WHITES 191-6 in 20 overs (Ahsan Ali 76, Saifullah Khan Bangash 34, Tariq Haroon 32 not out; Bilawal Bhatti 2-22, Sultan Ahmed 2-26).

Group ‘B’:

At Marghazar Cricket Ground, Islamabad: Karachi Blues beat Abbottabad by seven wickets.

ABBOTTABAD 153-8 in 20 overs (Younis Khan 51, Sajjad Ali 36, Adnan Raees 30, Sohail Akhtar 21; Mohammad Sami 2-24, Rumman Raees Khan 2-33); KARACHI BLUES 154-3 in 16.4 overs (Khalid Latif 65 not out, Fawad Alam 45 not out, Shahzaib Hasan 36).

At Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi: Lahore Whites beat Islamabad by three wickets.

ISLAMABAD 168-3 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 68 not out, Imad Wasim 38 not out, Shan Masood 32, Shahid Yousuf 30); LAHORE WHITES 169-7 in 19.5 overs (Ahmed Shehzad 48, Mohammad Hafeez 34, Saad Nasim 28 not out; Shehzad Azam Rana 3-38, Zohaib Ahmed 2-29).

Wednesday’s schedule:

Sialkot vs Hyderabad (Diamond Club Ground, Islamabad, 10:00am); Lahore Whites vs Abbottabad (Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi, 12:00noon); Karachi Whites vs Bahawalpur (Diamond Club Ground, Islamabad, 2:00pm); Faisalabad vs Peshawar (Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi, 4:00pm); Rawalpindi vs Multan (Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi, 8:00pm).

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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