Sindh has overcome the already eliminated Baluchistan in a sluggish five-wicket victory to avoid a late upset while coping with the dew factor in the National T20 Cup.
On a Gaddafi Stadium dewy pitch heavily loaded in favor of spinners, even chasing a negligible 114 turned out to be as herculean as steeping a mountain but Young Taha anchored his team home.
Sindh, who had come into this fixture having already been qualified to the next round, win their sluggish chase were grateful to their novice batter Mohammad Taha, who came of age with a high-class knock-in extremely trying conditions as the ball spun square.
In pale sunshine, the pre-match mood was already gloomy after the Sindh camp reported their skipper Anwar Ali had flown back to Karachi upon learning his ailing mother had passed away.
The familiar sight of the white-ball flying into the stands in this form of cricket with regularity was conspicuously missing and the entire game saw just two such strikes. And both times, it was Sohail Akhtar, who was handed the reins after regular captain Imam-ul-Haq opted to sit out what from Balochistan’s viewpoint became inconsequential encounter.
The funereal pace at which Balochistan went about their batting after Shan Masood, who was filling in as captain in Anwar’s forced absence for the rest of the tournament, depicted the atmosphere in which teams played. The beginning was bright enough when Abdullah Shafiq (22 off 26 balls) and Abdul Wahid Bangalzai added 54 for the first wicket.
Both openers departed in space of three deliveries. Thereafter, the remaining batters mustered just 59 more runs, out of which Sohail scored 37 from 36 balls.
As it was evident, slow bowlers were used in abundance by both sides but none stood out as did the experimental Abrar Ahmed, who returned figures of 2-15.
Sindh suffered a setback on the second ball of their chase when Sharjeel Khan virtually ran himself out through ridiculous running without even facing a ball. Shan Masood uncharacteristically lost his composure when unnecessarily charged at a tossed-up delivery from Mohammad Ibrahim and was smartly stumped by Hidayatullah for 18.
The 21-year-old southpaw from Karachi stayed undeterred while the likes of senior pros perished to soft dismissals, given the tons of experience behind them. Arriving at 19-2 after Khurram Manzoor was caught in the covers in a futile attempt to hit slow left-armed Kashif Bhatti, Taha finished the game with a 48-ball 47 (four boundaries).
Danish Aziz contributed 19 in the unbroken partnership of 39 with Taha, who deservingly received the player-of-the-match award.
It seems certain Sindh will remain either second or will down to the third in the final team standings whatever the result of the last league-stage game between Northern and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday night.
Abdullah Shafiq c Taha b Danish 22
Abdul W. Bangalzai c and b Abrar 29
Sohail Akhtar not out 37
Mohammad Ibrahim st Afzal b Abrar 1
Hidayatullah c Taha b Rumman 9
Umaid Asif run out 5
Kashif Bhatti not out 5
EXTRAS (B-1, W-4) 5
TOTAL (for five wkts, 20 overs) 113
FALL OF WKTS: 1-54, 2-54, 3-56, 4-78, 5-96.
DID NOT BAT: Najeebullah Achakzai, Mohammad Mohsin, Junaid Khan, Taj Wali.
BOWLING: Mir Hamza 4-0-28-0(3w); Rumman Raees Khan 4-0-25-1 (1w); Mohammad Hasnain 3-0-27-0; Abrar Ahmed 4-0-15-2; Danish Aziz 4-0-14-1; Mohammad Taha 1-0-3-0.
Khurram Manzoor c Sohail b Kashif 11
Sharjeel Khan run out 0
Shan Masood st Hidayatullah b Ibrahim 18
Mohammad Taha not out 47
Hasan Mohsin c Umaid b Ibrahim 6
Mohammad Afzal b Mohsin 9
Danish Aziz not out 19
EXTRAS (B-1, W-6) 7
TOTAL(for five wkts, 18.4 overs) 117
FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-19, 3-53, 4-61, 5-78.
DID NOT BAT: Rumman Raees Khan, Mir Hamza, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Hasnain.
BOWLING: Junaid Khan 3-0-20-0 (1w); Najeebullah Achakzai 1-0-8-0; Kashif Bhatti 3-0-13-1; Umaid Asif 1.4-0-14-0; Mohammad Ibrahim 4-0-24-2; Mohammad Mohsin 4-0-27-1 (1w); Sohail Akhtar 1-0-2-0; Taj Wali 1-0-8-0.
RESULT: Sindh won by five wickets.
UMPIRES: Asif Yaqoob and Rashid Riaz.
TV UMPIRE: Shozab Raza.
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Mohammad Taha (Sindh).
TUESDAY’S FIXTURES: First semi-final — Team No.1 vs Team No.4 (3:00pm PST); Second semi-final — Team No.2 vs Team No. 3 (7:30pm PST).