Khyber Pakhtunkhwa successfully defended the National T20 title as captain Iftikhar Ahmed’s kept his cool once again and with his all-round performance fashioned a seven-wicket win over Central Punjab in the final at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old out of favour all-rounder stroked an impressive 45 not out off 19 as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa eased past the 149-run target with 18 balls spare.
Iftikhar arrived at the crease with his side requiring 59 runs from 7.4 overs and smashed two sixes and six fours to finish as the second-best batter in the tournament with 409 runs scored at a staggering strike rate of 170.41.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain completed the run chase by smoking Mohammad Faizan for a four through cover on the last ball of the 17th over and unleashed a roar in the Lahore night sky. He bagged the player of the final and the best player of the tournament awards.
Adil Amin with an unbeaten 25 off 21 provided Iftikhar support from the other end.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s run chase was off to a quiet start as Central Punjab captain Wahab Riaz bowled a maiden over to Sahibzada Farhan. Young wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris thrashed Sameen Gul for a four and a six in the second over before he was dismissed.
The second wicket 47-run stand between Farhan, who was named as the best batter of the tournament for scoring the 447 — the most in the tournament at a strike rate of 132 — and Kamran Ghulam (37 off 31) staged the recovery and put Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into a strong position.
Farhan made 26 off 28 and was dismissed by the young off-spinner Qasim Akram.
For Central Punjab Ahmad Shahzad and Kamran Akmal scored a handsome second wicket partnership. The pair came together after Mohammad Akhlaq was caught behind off Imran Khan Snr on the second ball.
Ahmed, who top scored in the innings with 36-ball 44, smashed Arshad Iqbal for two fours in the second over, but it was the fifth over when their partnership truly kicked off as the two smashed left-arm orthodox Asif Afridi for two fours and a six in an over that added 16 to the total.
Ahmed finished the powerplay with a magnificent six-over point as Central Punjab gathered 51 from the first six overs.
It was left-arm bowler Khalid Usman who ended their partnership as he deceived Kamran and had him stumped. Kamran smashed three fours and two sixes in his 42 off 29.
Immediately in the next over, Central Punjab’s problems multiplied as Iftikhar came to bowl. Ahmed fell six runs short of what would have been his 40th T20 half-century as he held out to long-off.
In his next over, Iftikhar got rid of Saif Badar and Hussain Talat as Central Punjab slipped from 85 for one to 101 for five and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain finished with a superb three for five.
Qasim was the only batter in the middle-order to make a valuable contribution of 20-run off 11-ball. He grabbed 20 runs from Imran’s 17th over striking two sixes.
But, from there on, Central Punjab lost wickets at regular intervals. Mohammad Imran removed Mohammad Faizan and Qasim on back-to-back deliveries in the 18th over and Arshad sent Faheem Ashraf and Zafar Gohar back to the pavilion in the next over. Imran returned in the last over to remove Wahab and end Central Punjab’s innings with four spare balls.
Scores in brief
Central Punjab 148 all out, 19.2 overs (Ahmed Shahzad 44, Kamran Akmal 42, Qasim Akram 20; Iftikhar Ahmed 3-5, Mohammad Imran 3-26, Arshad Iqbal 2-28)
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 152-3, 17 overs (Iftikhar Ahmed 45 not out, Kamran Ghulam 37, Sahibzada Farhan 26, Adil Amin 25 not out; Sameen Gul 1-19, Qasim Akram 1-27, Mohammad Faizan 1-46)
Player of the final: Iftikhar Ahmed
Player of the tournament: Iftikhar Ahmed (409 runs and eight wickets)
Best batter of the tournament: Sahibzada Farhan (447 runs)
Best bowler of the tournament: Imran Khan Snr (16 wickets)
Best wicketkeeper of the tournament: Rohail Nazir (12 dismissals)