Islamabad, Lahore Blues keep cool in thrillersArchive
KARACHI: Lahore Blues rode on a whirlwind innings from Ahmed Shehzad to pull off a thrilling win over Peshawar before Islamabad grabbed a sensational last-ball triumph against Faisalabad in the Brighto Paints presents Cool & Cool National T20 Cup matches in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Faisalabad broke the sequence of ‘winning toss and fielding first option’ in all preceding matches of the tournament when Saeed Ajmal opted to give his batsmen the opportunity to set Islamabad a 171-run target in the evening fixture, which was successfully chased when the unlikely figure of giant speedster Mohammad Irfan sneaked a single off Taj Wali.
While several current Pakistan stars were missing for the rest of the national event since they had contractual obligations to fulfil in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League, the high drama continued at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.
Shehzad was not alone in stealing the limelight in the first game. Ali Shafiq, a 21-year-old right-arm seamer from Daska playing his maiden season of topflight cricket, marked his T20 debut with splendid figures of 3-21 in 2.5 overs to share the man-of-the-match award with Shehzad.
Shehzad — who for reasons best known to him had often appeared jittery in the Pakistan colours of late — took apart the Peshawar bowling in a savage display that enabled the 25-year-old right-hander to register the fastest 50 in the ongoing competition as he brought up the landmark in just 21 deliveries.
But Shehzad didn’t stay thereafter as he perished on the very next ball, caught by Waqas Maqsood off spinner Kashif Bhatti for exactly 50 — the 32nd half-century of his 179-match career — with the aid of nine boundaries and a six before Lahore Blues lost their first wicket in the fifth over with 65 runs on the board.
Fellow opener Imam-ul-Haq, who made 19 off 14 balls, watched in admiration as Shehzad tore into discarded Test paceman Mohammad Imran Khan, who bowled two big no-balls in his second over which went for 26 runs.
Imran had a game he will definitely want to forget. After bowling four wicketless overs for 50 runs as Lahore Blues posted 173-6, last man Imran became a villain in the piece when in the final over he foolishly attempted to get the required four runs on the penultimate ball but exposed his stumps to the cool-headed Ali, while leaving his well-set partner Naved Yasin stranded at the other end in a busy 44-ball knock of 62 that included four fours and three sixes.
Imran was not alone in being smashed around. Former international Aizaz Cheema conceded 45 in his four overs but unlike Imran went on to claim three wickets at critical junctures, including that of Kashif Bhatti who was acrobatically caught by Adnan Akmal.
Faisalabad — who on Saturday not only lost their unbeaten streak but also their top spot in the eight-team standings to Lahore Whites — put up a score of 170-7 largely because of a 17-ball cameo of 37 (three sixes and one six) from Khurram Shehzad after Sahibzada Farhan (43 off 39 balls, five fours and one six) and Sohaib Maqsood (38 off 22, four sixes and one four) had shared a second-wicket stand of 70.
Adil Amin, primarily known for his batting, bowled a vital four-over spell to pick up career-best figures of 4-27, while Irfan took 2-22 in his four overs.
Islamabad’s response to the chase was well-measured as Shan Masood (32 off 22, six boundaries) and Adil (35 off 27, two sixes and two fours) added 60 for the second wicket.
After they went, it was left to Saad Ali to shepherd the innings with a resourceful maiden half-century — 52 from 40 balls with the help of three fours and two sixes — in just his second T20 appearance until Taj (3-30) dislodged the left-hander to add some late drama. Incredibly for the second time on Saturday, the man-of-the-match award was a joint affair with Adil and Taj splitting the Rs25,000 sharing the amount.
Islamabad bt Faisalabad by two wickets.
FAISALABAD 170-7 in 20 overs (Sahibzada Farhan 43, Sohaib Maqsood 38, Khurram Shehzad 37, Asif Ali 22; Adil Amin 4-27, Mohammad Irfan 2-22); ISLAMABAD 171-8 in 20 overs (Saad Ali 52, Adil Amin 35, Shan Masood 32; Taj Wali 3-30, Yasir Shah 2-29).
Lahore Blues bt Peshawar by three runs.
LAHORE BLUES 173-6 in 20 overs (Ahmed Shehzad 50, Hussain Talat 37, Mohammad Hafeez 30; Waqas Maqsood 3-23, Kashif Bhatti 2-30); PESHAWAR 170 in 19.5 overs (Naved Yasin 62 not out, Riffatullah Mohmand 40, Israrullah 26; Ali Shafiq 3-21, Aizaz Cheema 3-45, Agha Salman 2-29).
Sunday’s fixtures: Rawalpindi vs Lahore (12:00noon); Karachi Whites vs Peshawar (4:00pm).
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2017