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Imran’s last-ball six steers Faisalabad to semi-finals

Imran’s last-ball six steers Faisalabad to semi-finals

KARACHI: While Lahore Blues surged to the top of standings on Thursday, Peshawar completed their campaign in the Brighto Paints presents Cool & Cool National T20 Cup on a gallant note when Imran Khalid struck a last-ball six to steer Faisalabad into the semi-finals.

The penultimate day of the league round saw two contrasting fixtures at the Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi. In the afternoon game, Agha Salman made his 24th birthday memorable with career-best efforts both with the ball and bat as Lahore Blues condemned Rawalpindi to their fifth defeat and a last-place finish.

Lahore Blues might have to give up their top slot if Lahore Whites — who have a superior net run-rate of 1.020 to Blues’ 0.392 — win Friday’s morning game against sixth-placed Islamabad, who along with fifth-placed Fata are still in the running for the one remaining last-four spot.

In case both Islamabad and Fata — who face Faisalabad in the final league-round match on Friday evening — emerge victorious then it could definitely hurt Karachi Whites’ chances of qualifying for Saturday’s semi-finals.

Currently, Sarfraz Ahmed’s men are fourth with an inferior net run-rate of -0.041 compared to Fata’s -0.332 and Islamabad’s -0.335 and the only advantage Karachi Whites — who have already played all their league-round matches — have is that they are on seven points, two more than both Fata and Islamabad.

Playing for their pride, Rawalpindi endured yet another disappointing day after a lacklustre outing in which they even failed to last the full quota of overs. Put into bat by Mohammad Hafeez, Rawalpindi folded up for 118 in 17.4 overs despite Pakistan discard Iftikhar Ahmed bludgeoning six sixes in a 33-ball knock of 60.

The only other double-figure score for Umar Amin’s side was provided by opener Zeeshan Malik who contributed a 26-ball 24 in his only appearance of the tournament.

Salman claimed three wickets for only eight runs in 1.4 overs, while Atif Jabbar bagged 3-25 in four overs with fellow paceman Ali Shafiq (2-17) and slow left-armer Khalid Usman (2-34) sharing the other four wickets.

Ahmed Shehzad (27 off 22 balls, two fours) and Imam-ul-Haq (36 off 39, four boundaries) launched the chase by adding 65 for the first wicket before left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar dismissed both of them as well as the promoted Adnan Akmal for a second-ball duck.

But man-of-the-match Salman, who came in at No. 3, ensured there were no hiccups as he and Hussain Talat carried Lahore Blues to their fifth victory in 17.1 overs. Salman’s 34 off 22 balls included three sixes and a four, while Hussain scored run-a-ball 21 in their unbroken partnership of exactly 50 runs.

Asghar finished with his best T20 figures of 3-13 in four overs but Pakistan star Shadab Khan went wicketless for the only time in this competition.

Faisalabad, meanwhile, also made a mess of their chase until Imran pulled left-arm seamer Shah Faisal over the midwicket fence to seal a tense five-wicket win.

To their credit, Peshawar made Faisalabad fight for every run as illustrated by Sahibzada Farhan’s restraint stay in the middle. Normally a free-scoring right-hander, Farhan — adjudged man-of-the-match — struggled to pierce the gaps and consumed 49 deliveries to make 47 and managed just three fours and a six.

Gohar Ali, however, made up for his opening partner’s lack of aggression with a feisty 30 from 22 balls as the wicket-keeper/batsman hit four fours and one six.

Peshawar were sharp in the field as Sohaib Maqsood found out when Shah Faisal cut short the in-form right-hander’s brief 14-ball innings of nine.

Stand-in captain Riffatullah Mohmand held back Sohail Khan to good effect. Coming into attack after the Powerplay was done with, Sohail produced a tidy spell of 2-19 to reclaim the top spot in wicket-taking chart with 12 wickets.

Earlier, Peshawar failed to cash in on the rapid start given by Riffatullah who blasted three sixes and as many fours in a 12-ball came of 32. The loss of Israrullah (0) and Kamran Ghulam (5) —both falling to left-arm paceman Taj Wali (3-29 in four overs) — also dented Peshawar’s hope of a sizeable total.

Obaidullah, playing only his second match, stood out with a 26-ball 29 in the mayhem as Peshawar were all out for 139 in 19.5 overs. Faisalabad skipper Saeed Ajmal bowled impeccably in snaring 2-15 from four overs.

Thursday’s results:

Faisalabad beat Peshawar by five wickets.

PESHAWAR 139 in 19.5 overs (Riffatullah Mohmand 32, Obaidullah 29; Taj Wali 3-29, Saeed Ajmal 2-15, Imran Khalid 2-36); FAISALABAD 142-5 in 20 overs (Sahibzada Farhan 47, Gohar Ali 30; Sohail Khan 2-19).

Lahore Blues beat Rawalpindi by seven wickets.

RAWALPINDI 118 in 17.4 overs (Iftikhar Ahmed 60, Zeeshan Malik 24; Agha Salman 3-8, Atif Jabbar 3-25, Ali Shafiq 2-17, Khalid Usman 2-34); LAHORE BLUES 124-3 in Imam-ul-Haq 36, Agha Salman 34 not out, Ahmed Shehzad 27, Hussain Talat 21 not out; Mohammad Asghar 3-13).

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

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017

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