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National T20 Cup 2020 Profile: Central Punjab's Rising Star - Abdullah Shafiq

The opening day of the National T20 Cup First XI tournament on Wednesday provided top-notch cricket as 806 runs were scored in the two matches played at the Multan Cricket Stadium.

It was dominated by Pakistan’s young guns – Haider Ali (90), Zeeshan Malik (77), Musa Khan (three for 31).

But the player who stood-out and was noted globally was 20-year-old Abdullah Shafiq. Playing in his maiden T20 match, he turned his cricket followers into his admirers as he smashed a riveting century, which turned a daunting 201-run target into a cakewalk for Central Punjab as they defeated Southern Punjab by seven wickets with seven balls spare.

The right-handed Sialkot-born batsman smashed 11 fours and four sixes in his scintillating 102 not out off 58 balls.

Abdullah started his career with Amir Waseem Cricket Academy in Sialkot and graduated to the top level in domestic cricket by representing Sialkot Region at the U16 and U19 level. He was picked for Pakistan U19 side for the tour of Sri Lanka in October 2015 and two ACC U19 Asia Cups in 2016 and 2017.  

He was picked in the Second XI side by Central Punjab for the three-day Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament in the 2019-20 season and was quick to grab the opportunity as he cracked two centuries and a half-century in six matches to record 545 runs at an imposing average of 68.13.

His telling showing earned him a spot in Central Punjab’s star-studded First XI team and Abdullah made sure that he got the spotlight with a 209-ball 133 on his first-class debut in December 2019.

He was subsequently rewarded by the Pakistan Cricket Board for his impressive run as he received a category ‘C’ domestic central contract for the 2020-21 season.

In a conversation for PCB digital with Shan Masood, the captain of Southern Punjab, Abdullah revealed there were some nerves when he was going in to bat after Central Punjab were two down for one in three balls, but spending some time on the pitch helped him get over them.

“I was quite nervous initially, but as I played a few balls, I started to gain confidence,” said Abdullah. “I tried to play my natural game and stick to my strengths. That is how I established my innings.

“This is indeed quite a memorable day for me just like that one on which I scored my maiden first-class century on debut. Both have their own significance but I rate this innings of mine more because this is my best innings to date.”

That Abdullah had a cricketing influence at his home further helped him in his development as a player as his father, Shafiq Ahmed, was a former first-class cricketer.

“My family would be really happy on my achievement. They have provided me unconditional support throughout my journey and have always stood by me through thick and thin. My father and my uncle follow my cricket and they advise me to play with courage.”

Abdullah admires Babar Azam and Ricky Ponting and wants to build on his perfect start. “My ambition is to serve Pakistan and want to build on how I have started my career. I want to give my hundred percent whenever I get an opportunity.”