Southern Punjab are back in the semi-final race in the second half of the tournament as they sealed two back to back victories in barely 18 hours, recently sealing the Punjab derby stunning the tournament’s leaders Central Punjab on Thursday.
Zia-u-Haq and Tayyab Tahir were the unsung stars at the Gaddafi Stadium and the T20 World Cup aspirant Khushdil Shah has finally hit form with a worthy innings. The left-hander had the satisfaction of striking the winning run to finish on 51 off 36 balls (eight boundaries).
Southern Punjab have a proud history of chasing down huge totals since this tournament was restructured in 2019. But they failed against Southern Punjab as the were unable to chase a manageable 155-run target.
Despite losing Zeeshan Ashraf and Salman Ali Agha inside the opening three overs, Southern Punjab were always on track.
The 28-year-old right-handed batter from Gujrat Tayyab Tahir marked just his fourth T20 appearance with well-constructed knock before being dismissed when only three runs were required. The hallmark of his batting was the way he pierced the field with attractive shots on both sides of the field.
Tayyab perished to a catch down the leg side to Wahab Riaz after adorning his highest T20 score of 68 from 52 balls with eight fours and a brace of sixes having shared a superb partnership of 92 with Khushdil.
Mohammad Imran Randhawa also made major contributions with both bat and ball. After returning outstanding analysis of 2-24 with his seamers, the all-rounder thrashed three boundaries and a pulled six off slow left-armer spinner Zafar Gohar — who finally got a game in place of the rested Usman Qadir —in a breezy 17-ball knock of 24.
With the Pakistan squad members preparing to enter the mandatory ICC World Cup bubble on Friday, Central Punjab sorely missed their regular skipper Babar Azam as the Pakistan captain opted to sit out his second straight match.
Central Punjab, sent into bat by Aamir Yamin, were at the receiving end from the opening over, the fourth ball of which found Kamran Akmal trapped in front for a duck by Aamir. Mohammad Akhlaq didn’t last long either when his off stump was rattled by Naseem Shah. Aamir then struck again to get rid of Saif Badar.
Hussain Talat and Shoaib Malik repaired the early damage by stitching together a partnership of 92 before Zia triggered another collapse by grabbing four of the last six wickets to fall for the addition of just 32 runs.
Zia claimed the prized scalp of Malik for a 24-ball 26 after the ex-Pakistan captain had become only the third player to surpass the 11,000-run mark in the T20 format.
Meanwhile, the Covid-stricken Balochistan were back in action after their fixture against Northern on Wednesday was rescheduled to Saturday after four players reported positive. They were in action against holders Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when the report was being filed.
Kamran Akmal lbw b Aamir 0
Mohammad Akhlaq b Naseem 7
Hussain Talat c Khushdil b Imran 68
Saif Badar c Zia b Aamir 11
Shoaib Malik c Khushdil b Zia 26
Qasim Akram c Hassaan b Zia 0
Faheem Ashraf lbw b Zia 3
Hasan Ali b Imran 11
Wahab Riaz c Khushdil b Zia 4
Zafar Gohar not out 8
Waqas Maqsood not out 5
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-8, NB-2) 11
TOTAL (for nine wkts, 20 overs) 154
FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-11, 3-30, 4-122, 5-122, 6-124, 7-137, 8-137, 9-144.
BOWLING: Aamir Yamin 4-0-22-2 (1nb); Naseem Shah 4-0-27-1 (1nb); Zia-ul-Haq 4-0-40-4 (2w); Salman Ali Agha 1-0-8-0 (2w); Umar Khan 2-0-17-0; Hassaan Khan 1-0-15-0; Mohammad Imran Randhawa 4-0-24-2.
Zeeshan Ashraf c Kamran b Waqas 3
Tayyab Tahir c Wahab b Waqas 68
Salman Ali Agha c Malik b Faheem 1
M. Imran Randhawa c Hasan b Zafar 24
Khushdil Shah not out 51
Aamir Yamin not out 1
EXTRAS (LB-2, W-7) 9
TOTAL (for four wkts, 19 overs) 157
FALL OF WKTS: 1-15, 2-18, 3-60, 4-152.
DID NOT BAT: Azam Khan, Hassaan Khan, Zia-ul-Haq, Naseem Shah, Umar Khan.
BOWLING: Faheem Ashraf 4-0-35-1 (4w); Waqas Maqsood 4-0-42-2 (1w); Hasan Ali 4-0-39-0 (1w); Wahab Riaz 4-0-18-0; Zafar Gohar 2-0-15-1; Hussain Talat 1-0-6-0.
RESULT: Southern Punjab won by six wickets.
UMPIRES: Rashid Riaz and Zameer Haider.
TV UMPIRE: Asif Yaqoob.
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Tayyab Tahir (Southern Punjab).