Batsmen were in full flow in Multan on the opening day of the National T20 Cup as they piled on runs from the first ball. The opening fixture saw Northern score 242 runs; second-highest run tally for a domestic game in Pakistan.
Northern, the defending champions, started their campaign with a resounding 79 runs win over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Opting to bat first after winning the toss, Northern lost Ali Imran early to Shaheen Afridi. Unruffled, Haider Ali and Zeeshan Malik combined together for a brilliant 180-run partnership, with the exciting young prospect Haider Ali continuing his rich form and scoring a scintillating 48 ball 90. Asif Ali and Umar Amin provided the final touches in the death overs to set up a daunting chase.
KPK despite having four international bowlers in their playing eleven had no answers to this onslaught. Wahab Riaz was all over the place and conceded 51 runs in 3 overs. Junaid Khan dismissed Haider and Malik in the end but went for 44 in his 4 overs. Usman Shinwari went for 11 per over and finished with dismal figures. Fakhar Zaman went for 29 in his two overs.
Similarly, despite having a strong batting line-up, Pakhtunkhwa were never in the game. The early loss of Fakhar Zaman, Muhammad Rizwan and Muhammad Hafeez put Pakhtunkhwa on the back foot. Sahibzada Farhan was the only positive in the batting with him scoring 62 runs, but there was no impetus in the innings at any stage.
Even during a through run-fest on the opening day of the competition, Northern bowling attack had a good outing. All of the bowlers were among the wickets. Muhammad Musa was the pick of them as he ended with figures of 3 for 31 in his 4 overs. Muhammad Nawaz and Sohail Tanvir scalped 2 wickets each while Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf bagged one each. An all-round bowling performance meant that Pakhtunkhwa could only reach 163 for 9.
Northern’s one-sided victory has put all other teams on notice – the defending champions are in no mood to relinquish their title.