Central Punjab strong contenders for National T20 Cup

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

Islambad: A win over Northern, the defending champions, will secure Central Punjab the title of the Second XI National T20 Cup when the two teams meet on Thursday morning at the Gaddafi Stadium.
In case, Nauman Anwar-led Central Punjab, face a defeat by Northern, who are yet to open their account, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will win the title on the basis of net run-rate as the two sides are locked on six points each.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa find themselves in the title run following a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Northern, who succumbed to their fourth defeat in a row on Wednesday.
Northern’s Taimoor Sultan’s 46-ball 72 went in vain after Rehan Afridi, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain, decided to field first. The opener smashed six fours and five sixes and struck a 60-run partnership for the second wicket with Naved Malik, who made 29 off 21.
Sameen Gul and Mohammad Imran, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bowlers, returned three for 15 and two for 28, before an undefeated 117-run partnership between Mohammad Mohsin Khan and Mohammad Arif overhauled a 150-run target in 17.2 overs with eight wickets spare. Mohsin made 63 not out off 51 (nine fours and a six) and Arif was undefeated on 65 from 39 balls, which included six sixes and three fours.
Southern Punjab, who also have six points, squandered their position of advantage when they failed to surmount a 125-run target in the second match of the day and lost to Balochistan by six runs. A disciplined bowling display brought Balochistan’s bowlers Gohar Faiz and Akhtar Shah two wickets each for 32 and 24 runs, respectively, while Jalat Khan bowled exceptionally well to record 4-0-12-1.
Their teammate Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, the 17-year-old batsman who has been called-up in the First XI team for the second round of the National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi, registered the highest score of the match with a run-a-ball 35. Ayaz Tasawar (21 off 17), Azeem Ghumman (20 off 15), the Balochistan captain, and Najeebullah Achakzai (20 not out of 19) were the other batsmen to make notable contributions.
Southern Punjab’s Mohammad Imran, who was also called up for his Cricket Association’s First XI team, took three wickets for 26 runs. Salman Ali Agha returned two for 20.
Scores in brief:
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beat Northern by eight wickets
Northern 149 all out, 19.1 overs (Taimoor Sultan 72, Naved Malik 29; Sameen Gul 3-15, Mohammad Imran 2-28)
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 150-2, 17.2 overs (Mohammad Arif 65 not out, Mohammad Mohsin Khan 63 not out)
Balochistan beat Southern Punjab by six runs
Balochistan 124-7, 20 overs (Abdul Wahid Bangalzai 35, Ayaz Tasawar 21, Najeebullah Achakzai 20 not out, Azeem Ghumman 20; Mohammad Imran 3-26)
Southern Punjab 118-8, 20 overs (Anas Mustafa 25; Akhtar Shah 2-24, Gohar Faiz 2-32)