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Peshawar, Rawalpindi off the mark with first victories

Peshawar, Rawalpindi off the mark with first victories

KARACHI: After two days of virtual inactivity in the Brighto Paints’ Cool & Cool National T20 Cup, the sunshine in Rawalpindi on Thursday instilled life back into the rain-marred tournament at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

The two scheduled matches yielded exhilarating cricket which resulted in first wins for both Peshawar and Rawalpindi against Islamabad and Fata respectively, and if Karachi Whites can resurrect their campaign with a much-needed victory against Rawalpindi in Friday’s evening game, then the race would open up significantly because then all eight teams in the competition would be in the running for next week’s knockout phase.

Currently, Faisalabad — the solitary unbeaten region left in the competition — retain their top spot with five points, two ahead of six outfits while Karachi Whites remain rooted at the base with a single point attained from Tuesday’s washed-out match against Lahore Blues.

The first match, which began 15 minutes behind the slated noon start because the ground needed drying up, saw Islamabad fold up for 128 after Peshawar, expectedly, chose to bowl first before sealing a nervy three-wicket success.

At one point Islamabad were six wickets down for 90 runs after having plodded to 48-4 at the halfway stage of the innings. They ultimately owed their final total to a career-best 35 knock from rising Pakistan pace-bowling star Hasan Ali, who banged three sixes and two fours in his 20-ball effort after being promoted the order to No. 7.

Sarmad Bhatti contributed a 21-ball 28 but Shoaib Malik’s first appearance in the tournament ended dismally when the Pakistan star got dismissed hit wicket for just six runs against slow left-armer Kashif Bhatti, who was one of four bowlers to take a brace.

Peshawar’s reply started brightly as the left-handed duo of Fakhar Zaman and Israrullah shared a second-wicket partnership of 54 before the opener unnecessarily threw his wicket in a rush of blood. The tossed up delivery from Malik deceived Fakhar’s ambitious attempt to hoist his Pakistan teammate out of the ground, completely missing the radar and was easily stumped by Mohammad Naqqash for a 20-ball 27.

Man-of-the-match Israrullah, who had earlier bowled a tidy left-arm spin spell of 1-15 in three overs, perished at the start of the 17th over when he horribly misjudged Hasan Ali’s length and lost his off stump. He struck 56 off 50 balls with the aid of three sixes and four fours.

Islamabad then created panic in Peshawar’s ranks with three further wickets in the space of five runs until Sohail Khan lifted Shehzad Azam Rana for a last-over six to ease their nerves before Kashif Bhatti sneaked a leg-bye to end a pulsating encounter as Peshawar collected 129-7 with two balls left.

Umar Amin produced a high-class performance to inspire Rawalpindi to a six-wicket win against Fata in the seesaw evening clash. The elegant left-hander batted with authority to strike five sixes and a four in his man-of-the-match innings of 66 from 49 deliveries after Fata had reached a competitive 160-8 after being asked to bat first.

Ex-international Mukhtar Ahmed (42 off 32 balls, three sixes and three fours) and young Khushdil Shah (50 off 32, four sixes and three fours) were the major contributors for Fata, while Pakistan leg-spin sensation Shadab Khan bowled a telling four-over spell of 1-15 to play a key role in curbing Fata’s acceleration.

Sohail Tanvir also had a good outing with figures of 1-20 in four overs but crucially it was his often underrated batting that broke Fata’s hearts. Needing 16 from the final over, Rawalpindi got over the line when the Pakistan all-rounder deposited tall speedster Ahmed Jamal’s second ball over long on for a six before sending the fourth delivery into the stands at square leg and finished off Fata with a cover-driven boundary on the penultimate ball.

Despite the defeat, Fata are still second in the standings with a difference of +0.66 over Lahore Whites. But these teams brace for a tricky morning fixture, starting as early as 9:30am owing to Friday congregation prayers.

Thursday’s results:

Rawalpindi beat Fata by six wickets.

FATA 160-8 in 20 overs (Khushdil Shah 50, Mukhtar Ahmed 42, Sohail Akhtar 20 not out; Mohammad Asghar 2-41); RAWALPINDI 163-4 in 19.5 overs (Umar Amin 66, Nasir Nawaz 42, Sohail Tanvir 25 not out, Mohammad Nawaz 21 not out; Hammad Azam 2-23.

Peshawar beat Islamabad by three wickets.

ISLAMABAD 128 in 19.2 overs (Hasan Ali 35, Sarmad Bhatti 28; Kashif Bhatti 2-22, Sohail Khan 2-23, M. Imran Khan 2-28, Waqas Maqsood 2-28); PESHAWAR 129-7 in 19.4 overs (Israrullah 56, Fakhar Zaman 27; Mohammad Irfan 2-9).

Friday’s fixtures: Lahore Whites vs Fata (9:30am); Rawalpindi vs Karachi Whites (4:00pm).

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017

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