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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chases sixth title of the season

Pakistan Cup
Pakistan Cup
©PCB
 

The semi-finals of the Pakistan Cup – the final tournament of the 2021-22 season, will be played at the Multan Cricket Stadium on Monday and Wednesday, with the winners going head to head on Friday at the same venue.

After 30 round matches, defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan recorded seven wins apiece, but Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has placed ahead of Balochistan on net run-rate. Sindh grabbed third spot with six wins in 10 matches, while Central Punjab finished fourth with five wins.

As such, in the first semi-final on Monday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will take on Central Punjab while Balochistan will lock horns with Sindh on Wednesday. Both contests will start at 0930 PST, and will be live telecast on PTV Sports and live-streamed on PCB’s YouTube Channel. The commentary panel for the three action-packed matches will consist of Ali Younis, Ayyaz Muhammad, Leena Aziz, Shah Faisal and Tariq Saeed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are chasing the rare distinction of sweeping all PCB-organised events. They have already annexed the U13, U16, U19, National T20 Cup and Quaid-e-Azam Trophy titles – an achievement that speaks volumes of the talent and abilities of cricketers in that part of Pakistan.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa v Central Punjab

Rival captains Khalid Usman of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Central Punjab’s Wahab Riaz spoke with PCB Digital ahead of the semi-final:

Khalid Usman: “We have done really well in this domestic season, winning five tournaments and are really looking forward to end the season on a winning note. Central Punjab is a good side and they have some very good seasoned players. We too have a very balanced side and we are playing together as a unit since last three years. I am personally very satisfied with my bowling performances in the tournament and I hope it will help my team to win the semi-final and later final of the tournament.”

Wahab Riaz: “We have won our last two games before coming into the semi-final which included a win against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so we will have an upper edge going into Monday’s semi-final. Our batting and bowling departments have performed well in crucial stages of the matches in the tournament and I expect the same from my boys to go all out to win the semi-final.”

In the first round match between the two sides at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa inflicted a crushing five-wicket defeat on Central Punjab when they achieved the 216-run target with 46 balls to spare. Kamran Ghulam and Waqar Ahmed struck half-centuries, while captain Khalid Usman and spinner Mehran Ibrahim bagged three wickets apiece.

In the return match at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on 22 March, Central Punjab came back strongly when they bowled out Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for 253 in chase of 269. Central Punjab’s Rizwan Hussain scored 104 and Qasim Akram picked three wickets.

For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Adil Amin has been their star batter, having scored 393 runs in 10 matches with four half-centuries. He has received good support from Mohammad Sarwar Afridi (356 runs) and Kamran Ghulam (352 runs). Amongst the bowlers, captain Khalid Usman with his left-arm spin leads the bowling charts with 23 wickets. Right-arm pacers Arshad Iqbal and Sameen Gul have picked nine and eight wickets, respectively.

Test opener Ahmed Shehzad has been the mainstay of Central Punjab’s batting with 421 runs in 10 matches with a century and two half-centuries. Rizwan Hussain (388 runs) and Saad Nasim (231 runs) have provided Ahmed a good helping hand. Wahab Riaz and Hussain Talat have shared the bowling responsibilities for Central Punjab taking 13 and 12 wickets, respectively.

 

Balochistan v Sindh

Yasir Shah will lead Balochistan, while Sindh will be captained by Mir Hamza. Both the captains sounded confident when they spoke with PCB Digital.

Yasir Shah: “Our side has performed consistently in the tournament. We have a very balanced side that includes young as well as seasoned players. We just need to carry on the momentum and I am very hopeful we can lift the trophy this season.”

Mir Hamza: “The players are united and they are delivering what they are capable of. The return of Sarfaraz Ahmed is a huge boost for the side and his presence will make a difference in the knock-out match as he performed in last match. I am hopeful the players will give their best on the field. We are not thinking about the result and we will go out to enjoy the game.”

Sindh comfortably defeated Balochistan by six wickets when both sides met for the first time in the tournament at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad. Half-centuries from Sharjeel Khan and Omair Bin Yousuf overcame unbeaten century by Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (136 not out).

Sindh made it two out of two when they defeated Balochistan by nine wickets at the Multan Cricket Stadium. Batting first Balochistan were dismissed for 126 in the 34th over with Sohail Khan and Danish Aziz taking five wickets apiece. In turn, unbeaten half-centuries from Sharjeel Khan and Khurram Manzoor helped Sindh achieved the target in 19 overs for the loss of one wicket.

Sharjeel has been Sindh’s leading run-scorer who is also leading the batting charts with 534 runs in 10 matches and the only batter to score a double-century in the tournament, while left-handed Danish has scored 240 runs at an average of 48 and has also taken 15 wickets. Khurram Manzoor has scored 238 runs from nine matches.

In the bowling charts, besides Danish, Sohail Khan and Abrar Ahmed have also taken 15 wickets apiece. Sindh team will miss their pace bowler Shahnawaz Dahani (15 wickets from seven matches) as he will be on national duty playing against Australia in the limited overs series (three ODIs and one T20I) starting from 29 March at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

For Balochistan, Test players Imran Butt (470) and Asad Shafiq (425) and young duo consisted of Haseebullah (438) and Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (405) hold the key for them in the batting department.

In the bowling department, captain and Test leg-spinner Yasir Shah has taken 18 wickets from 10 matches. Akif Javed (14) and Amad Butt (12) are other leading wicket-takers for Balochistan.