A proper duel was expected on the last day as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were looking to dethrone Central Punjab, the defending champions. But nobody expected this outcome. After 5 days of enthralling cricket, the last few hours of which contained drama like never seen before, nothing could separate Central Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. For the first time in the history of first-class cricket, a domestic final ended in a tie.
With just one run needed to win the tournament, Waqas Maqsood tried to heave one over the off-side but found the fielder, much of the jubilation of the Pakhtunkhwa players who had thought the game has been lost.
Before the conclusion, it was an absolute cracking two hours of cricket which saw Central Punjab make a remarkable comeback after being down and out at lunch.
Central Punjab started day 5 on 140 for 2 and required another 216 runs to defend their title. The overnight partnership between Usman Salahuddin and Muhammad Saad was broken in the first over when Arshad Iqbal trapped Saad in front of the stumps.
Salahuddin foollowed soon after nicking one to the keeper off the bowling of Irfanullah Shiekh. Qasim Akram, Ali Shan and Saad Nasim followed soon. Central Punjab were tottering at 202-7 when Hasan Ali came on the pitch and produced one of the greatest knocks of the season.
Hasan Ali, who has made an impressive comeback with the ball came out with a positive attitude. He smacked Sajid Khan, the best bowler in the tournament for 24 runs in an over that included three fours and two sixes. This over set the tone for what was to come. He smashed KPK bowlers to all parts of the ground. Such was his eye that every ball was hitting the middle of his bat. Ahmed Safi Abdullah joined him and played a crucial knock of 35 runs that included five fours and one towering six. Hasan Ali reached his half-century in just 26 balls
Such was the onslaught from both batsmen that KPK bowlers had no answers. It was like they were finding gaps at will. Both added 70 runs in quick time for the ninth wicket before Ahmed Safi hit one straight at Sameen Gul. Ahmed got out, CP still needed 37 runs to win.
Hasan Ali hit Khalid Usman for a six and a four to complete a fantastic 58-ball century. With Waqas Maqsood, the last man at the crease things got tough but Hasan Ali managed it well and brought his team on the cusp of a miraculous win.
Hasan Ali has been instrumental in Central Punjab’s late surge in defending the title. Punjab was languishing at the bottom at the halfway stage of the tournament but a remarkable turnaround saw them win five games on the trot to get into the finals. Ali led the team from the front since his comeback. Also, it was a very bold move to declare the first innings on 257 for 9 when they were trailing by 43 runs.