Khyber Pakhtunkhwa held their nerve to defeat Southern Punjab by ten runs to lift the National T20 Cup. Shan Masood, after winning the toss elected to field first. Fakhar Zaman and Muhammad Rizwan laid a strong foundation for KPK. They added 76 runs for the first wicket. Fakhar was in full flow and registered a 40-ball 67 with seven fours and three sixes.

Hafeez struggled in the start but compiled a good 38 off 28. South Punjab had a horror show in the field as they dropped five catches on the night. Muhammad Hafeez alone was dropped 3 times. At one stage Punjab had Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 133 for 3 in 16 overs and were looking good to restrict them around 180 but a late on-slaught from the veteran Shoaib Malik left bowlers clueless. The 38 year old blasted his fastest T20 half century off just 20 balls and powered Pakhtunkhwa to a formidable 206-4. He was also adjudged as player of the match.

Southern Punjab bowlers went the distance. Most of the times they lacked discipline with their line and lengths. Fielding blunders also didn’t help the cause as they gave away 73 runs in the last 4 overs. Aamer Yamin and Zahid Mehmood did pick up a wicket each.

Chasing 200 plus in a final against a top quality Pakhtunkhwa attack was always going to be a difficult ask. Southern needed a good start which they didn’t get. Shaheen removed captain Shan Masood and Sohaib Maqsood on successive deliveries. The middle order once again put up a great fight. Khushdil and Hussain Talat some what brought back their side in the game with a 74-run partnership.

Just when it felt like Khushdil was ready to go in another gear, Shinwari deceived him. Talat scored a brilliant 63 off 33 balls before Shoaib Malik took an absolute classic on the boundary to dismiss him. At the time, Punjab still needed 76 from 36 balls. Muhammad Imran did put up a great fight with a 13 ball 38 but in the end it was too much an ask.

Shaheen Shah, the leading wicket taker in the tournament and Wahab Riaz were the pick of the bowlers. Both took 3 wickets each. Imran Khan bowled a miserly spell, he didn’t take any wickets but gave away just 22 runs to tighten the screws. Shinwari took the crucial wicket of Khushdil. It was a complte bowling performance by KPK.

The author is a member of staff and heads the sports and business desks at The Correspondent. He mainly lives in the shadows as a ghost writer so you may have read his work and not even known it. He can be reached at asadqasim@thecorrespondent.pk

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