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Power-hitting Faisalabad trio deliver knockout punch to Pindi

Power-hitting Faisalabad trio deliver knockout punch to Pindi

KARACHI: On a day of bizarre happenings in the Brighto Paints presents Cool & Cool National T20 Cup on Tuesday, Faisalabad staged a blitzkrieg upon Rawalpindi bowling to complete an astonishing chase a few hours after a swarm of bees had held up play at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

Lahore Whites’ charge to the last-four stage of the competition was held up briefly in the afternoon during Peshawar’s innings when the players and umpire — Aaley Haider — all of them hit the ground to avoid being stung by the swarming bees. Remarkably, Khalid Mahmood, the other on-field umpire, stood all this time calmly at his square-leg position, bemused by what was going on.

Although Lahore Whites ran out comfortable winners by 27 runs, their fourth success was marred by a foot injury to in-form opener Kamran Akmal, who was in sheer agony when discarded Pakistan fast bowler Sohail Khan produced an unplayable toe-crusher shortly after reaching fourth successive half-century.

While Umar Akmal replaced his older brother behind the stumps in the second half of the match, Kamran was later deemed ‘fit’ for the rest of the tournament by the Lahore team management after an X-ray revealed just bruising on his left foot.

Lahore Whites survive Kamran injury scare to make semis

Kamran’s 52 off 40 balls, featuring five fours and three sixes, were scored out of the first-wicket stand of 85 inside 11 overs after Peshawar’s stand-in skipper Riffatullah Mohmand decided to field first at the toss.

Salman Butt finished unbeaten for the second time in three innings as the captain compiled a fortuitous 85 with his 59-ball knock embellished with 14 boundaries after the ex-Pakistan skipper was let off several times in the field.

Chasing 164, Peshawar never were in the mood to win and when the fourth fell at 50, the rest of play of only academic interest and enabled the hardworking seamer Umaid Asif become the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with career-best haul of 4-26 in four overs — a performance that earned the 33-year-old half share of the Rs25,000 man-of-the-match prize with his captain — as Peshawar crashed out of the knockout-round race by folding up for 136 in 19.3 overs.

If the first game lacked in intensity and flair, the evening fixture was a riveting affair until the very last moment. Rawalpindi needed to win to stay in contention for the semi-finals, but phenomenal power-hitting from Sohaib Maqsood, Khurram Shehzad and Fahim Ashraf carried Faisalabad to an incredible five-wicket win.

After Rawalpindi thought they had done enough with the bat by riding on a second-wicket left-handed stand of 103 in 65 balls between skipper Umar Amin (67 off 47 balls, seven fours and three sixes) and Zain Abbas (62 off 45, four fours and two sixes) to collect 193-3, Faisalabad never gave up in the chase.

Sohaib, the injury-plagued right-hander, reminded the national selectors that he is still a force to earn an international recall as he cut loose to lead Faisalabad’s charge after makeshift opener Ali Waqas was out for a first-ball duck in the second over.

The 30-year-old from Multan, who last played for Pakistan on the tour of New Zealand in January 2016, after arriving at 4-1, blazed his way to a blistering 87 — which surpassed his previous highest T20 score by a single run — from just 43 deliveries until he was fourth out at 108. Sohaib’s man-of-the-match contribution included nine fours and six sixes.

Thanks to Sohaib’s belligerence, Faisalabad timed their acceleration to perfection. At the halfway point they had only made 79 but the next 120 runs came off only 59 deliveries when Fahim Ashraf effortlessly deposited paceman Adnan Ghaus straight six — the left-hander’s third of his 10-ball cameo of 26 — to finish off Rawalpindi as the unbroken partnership between him and Khurram Shehzad yielded 78 in only 34 balls.

The 35-year-old Khurram may not be a familiar name for many but the unsung right-hander, crossed 50 only for the third time in 77 matches. But perhaps the 25-ball 52 — embedded with five fours and three sixes — he blasted on Tuesday was the most significant he would ever play.

The only bowler to command respect in the carnage was Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who took 2-23 in four overs.

Tuesday’s results:

Faisalabad beat Rawalpindi by five wickets.

RAWALPINDI 193-3 in 20 overs (Umar Amin 67, Zain Abbas 62, Sohail Tanvir 32 not out); FAISALABAD (Sohaib Maqsood 87, Khurram Shehzad 52 not out, Fahim Ashraf 26 not out; Shadab Khan 2-23, Adnan Ghaus 2-62).

Lahore Whites beat Peshawar by 27 runs.

LAHORE WHITES 163-4 in 20 overs (Salman Butt 85 not out, Kamran Akmal 52); PESHAWAR 136 in 19.3 overs (Naved Yasin 25, Saif Badar 23, Sohail Khan 22; Umaid Asif 4-26m Asif Ali 2-17, Ehsan Adil 2-21).

Wednesday’s fixtures: Karachi Whites vs Fata (12:00noon); Islamabad vs Lahore Blues (4:00pm).

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017

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