Southern Punjab’s losing curse continues in the ongoing National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi as the wicketkeeper and batter Azam Khan, who is also selected in Pakistan’s World Cup squad, underperformed and Baluchistan stunned the team by 8 wickets in their fifth straight match.
Friday’s victory was Balochistan’s second triumph in five outings. Baluchistan’s victory was marred by a horrific injury to their captain Imam-ul-Haq during the first half of the match when he crashed into a commercial hoarding while trying to stop a flick by Sohaib. Imam, clearly grimacing in agony was immediately taken to hospital with the extent of the injury yet to be confirmed.
Sohaib, who along with Azam and Khushdil Shah is in the Pakistan squad for this month’s Twenty20 World Cup, top-scored for the second game running as he followed his knock of 75 against Northern on Wednesday with another half-century the swashbuckling right-hander struck six fours and two sixes in making 54 off 34 deliveries.
While the left-handed Khushdil managed a 22-ball 25, Azam’s wretched form with the willow continued when the burly right-handed batter fell for just 2 while missing an arm ball from the part-time spinner and out-of-favor Pakistan batter Haris Sohail in a futile attempt to play an overambitious sweep.
The wicket-keeper/batter, who has been surprisingly picked as Mohammad Rizwan’s understudy for the World Cup, mustered just 55 runs from five innings.
The solitary partnership of note during Southern Punjab’s innings came when Sohaib and Hassaan Khan added 71 in 49 deliveries with young Hassan making clean strikes with three maximums during a 22-ball 28.
Umaid and Junaid Khan shared six wickets between them for 59 runs in eight overs with fellow pacer Khurram Shehzad grabbing 2-34.
With Imam unable to bat, Balochistan’s young pair of openers, Abdullah Shafiq (44 off 28, five fours and one six) and player-of-the-match Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (50 off 42, seven boundaries) began with a 55-ball stand of 84.
Harris, who returned undefeated with 47 (35 balls, six fours) then came out to play a series of exquisite strokes in the typical left-hander mould as he and Wahid put the result beyond doubt while stitching together a partnership of 55 from 34 balls.
Southern Punjab was further handicapped by Dilbar Hussain’s nightmarish first appearance in this edition. The fast bowler overstepped three times in his first over and on each occasion, the free-hit produced a four as the fourth over of the innings went for 20 runs. The 28-year-old from Faisalabad bowled two more no-balls in the 12 over, but fortunately, the freebies on offer didn’t cost much this time.
Meanwhile, Sindh and Northern were in action during their top-of-the-table clash in which the league leaders Sindh came out victorious through the DLS method as the match was stopped by rain in the second inning go the match.