The Kingdom Valley National T20 Cup 2022-23 was off to a sparkling start on Tuesday with match two between Central Punjab and Balochistan going down the wire and the former coming out victorious on the last ball.
Irfan Khan Niazi’s epic 31-ball 57 not out went in vain as Central Punjab fell just two runs short of the 187-run target. In the first match of the day at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Sindh’s Sarfaraz Ahmed and bowlers inspired their side to a commanding win over Southern Punjab.
Central Punjab fall agonisingly short despite Irfan’s late blitz
All-rounder Irfan Khan Niazi, a product of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s age-group programme, led Central Punjab’s fightback and had his side in touching distance of the win with four needed off the last ball after the last over began with 19 remaining.
He had arrived at the crease with 127 required off 64 with established players in Ahmed Shehzad (17 off 19) and Abdullah Shafique (15 off 18), and former U19 captain Qasim Akram (13 off nine) back in the pavilion, and added 61 with Tayyab Tahir (51 off 33) and 41 with Faheem Ashraf (18 off eight).
It was the stand between Tayyab – who struck seven fours and a six – and Irfan that proved to be pivotal as they scored 61 at 9.38 runs per over, before Faheem and Irfan added 41 at a blistering 15 runs per over. Irfan, who shared the player of the match award with Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, smashed three sixes and as many fours.
Balochistan’s Wahid and Shan Masood hammered 54 each to help Balochistan post a towering 186 for four after their captain Yasir Shah elected to bat. The two had come together in the fourth over with 36 on board following the dismissals of Haseebullah and Asad Shafiq on back-to-back deliveries.
Asad and Haseebullah promised a good start as the two kept the run rate hovering around 10 an over. Asad, especially, looked in solid touch as he hit 23 runs (five fours) at a strike rate of over 191. Wahid and Shan added 111 runs together at over eight runs per over, blasting 13 boundaries between them. Wahid, who scored at over 138, sent four deliveries flying above the boundary rope and dispatched three off the 39 he faced for fours, while Shan, who scored at exactly 150, struck six fours in his 36-ball knock. Ahmed Daniyal took all four of Balochistan’s wickets.
Sarfaraz, bowlers hand Sindh 42-run win
A fighting 42 off 32 by player of the match Sarfaraz Ahmed and a dominant show with the ball saw Sindh defeat Balochistan comprehensively in the tournament opener. Southern Punjab opted to chase after winning the toss and kept Sindh’s scoring rate in check with wickets at regular intervals as Sindh exhausted all their batters and managed 147 with two balls spare.
Openers Sharjeel Khan (24 off 19) and Saim Ayub (30 off 20) added 38 runs together before the former was undone by leg-spinner Ali Majid. Wicketkeeper-batter Sarfaraz walked in the middle with three wickets down for 73 in the 10th over and made his experience count. He cracked six fours and scored at a strike rate of 131. Over the course of his innings, Sarfaraz batted with the tail and was his side’s last wicket to fall when he was caught off Sameen Gul, who returned the innings’ best figures of three for 24. Sameen’s other two wickets were Anwar Ali and Mir Hamza.
Pacer Mohammad Ilyas was the other bowler to account for three batters. He sent Omair Bin Yousuf, Sohail Khan and Danish Aziz back to the pavilion and gave away 29 in his four. Left-arm wrist spinner Faisal Akram returned two for 26. Southern Punjab were never really in the run chase and were bowled out for a paltry 105 in 16.4 overs. They lost their top three inside the powerplay and were three down for 29 in just 5.3 overs with Sohail Khan, Anwar Ali and Danish Aziz accounting for Zain Abbas, Zeeshan Ashraf and Sohaib Maqsood.
Their problems were amplified in the ninth over with leg-spinner Zahid Mehmood accounting for Salman Ali Agha and Moinuddin in the space of four balls. Danish Aziz took his second wicket in the 12th over by sending Muhammad Imran back. Right-arm pacer Sohail Khan finished with three wickets to his name. He removed Sameen Gul and Faisal Akram on successive deliveries. The only notable batting performance in the run chase came from Sharoon Siraj, who struck 36 off 27.
SCORES IN BRIEF
Match 2 – Balochistan beat Central Punjab by 2 runs
Balochistan 186-4, 20 overs (Shan Masood 54, Abdul Wahid Bangalzai 54, Asad Shafiq 23, Amad Butt 21; Ahmed Daniyal 4-28)
Central Punjab 184-5, 20 overs (Irfan Khan Niazi 57 not out, Tayyab Tahir 51; Amad Butt 3-29)
Player of the match – Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (Balochistan) and Irfan Khan Niazi (Central Punjab)
Match 1 – Sindh beat Southern Punjab by 42 runs
Sindh 147 all out, 19.4 overs (Sarfaraz Ahmed 42, Saim Ayb 30, Sharjeel Khan 24; Sameen Gul 3-24, Mohammad Ilyas 3-29, Faisal Akram 2-26)
Southern Punjab 105 all out, 16.4 overs (Sharoon Siraj 36; Sohail Khan 3-15, Danish Aziz 2-22, Zahid Mehmood 2-26)
Player of the match – Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh)