National T20 Cup: Rizwan, Fakhar half-centuries take Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the final
Half-centuries by Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman set a comfortable eight-wicket win for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against Sindh in the second semi-final of the National T20 Cup for the First XIs at Pindi Cricket Stadium on Saturday. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will play Southern Punjab in the final on Sunday.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beat Sindh by eight wickets
Sindh 142 all out, 19.5 overs (Khurram Manzoor 74, Danish Aziz 39; Imran Khan Snr 2-19, Usman Khan Shinwari 2-19)
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 146-2, 14.5 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 67, Fakhar Zaman 57; Danish Aziz 2-35)
Player of the match – Mohammad Rizwan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
With 143 runs to chase, openers Fakhar and Rizwan provided Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a solid start with 113-run stand from just 64 balls.
The pair ensured that Sindh bowlers remain on the backfoot as they struck boundaries regularly and had Khyber Pakhtunkhwa well ahead of the required run-rate with the scorecard reading 66 for none at the end of the powerplay.
Fakhar smashed 57 runs from 29 balls with eight fours and two sixes before he was dismissed in the 11th over, while Rizwan struck 11 fours in his 50-ball 67.
This was wicketkeeper-batsman’s fourth half-century in the tournament and he was later named player of the match.
Both openers were dismissed by Danish Aziz as the left-arm orthodox finished with two for 35.
Reflecting on his innings and team’s performance, Mohammad Rizwan said: “I have been provided a plan by Abdul Razzaq, who is our head coach and also a national selector, to open the innings and I am happy that it is paying off.
“Scoring runs and performing in the field gives you confidence as a captain that you can lead your team from the front.
“There is always pressure on you as a team and individual when you are playing semi-final or a final. The key is to stick to your strengths. Teams are always formed on combinations, not individuals, and that is what give you results. It is very important to be united as a team. We have gelled very well together.
“We have been struggling a little bit towards the end of our bowling innings, but our bowlers bowled really well in that phase of the innings today. We are looking forward to play the final tomorrow.”
That Sindh bowlers had something to bowl at was largely due to Khurram Manzoor, who scored his third half-century and finished the tournament with 408 runs, which include a century, at an average of 37.09. The right-handed opener held an end together with the wickets falling regularly at the other end.
Sindh, after being asked to bat, dealt an early blow when Shaheen Afridi, who currently is the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 17 scalps, bowled Sharjeel Khan (0 off one) on the last ball of the first over.
Asad Shafiq, who replaced Saud Shakeel in the line-up for the crucial contest, was the next man to go when he edged Imran Khan Snr’s out-swinger to short third-man. The situation aggravated for Sindh in the third over as Azam Khan, who scored 268 runs at a strike rate of 168.55 in the tournament, was run out at the non-striker’s end without facing a ball. Sindh, as such, were reduced to 10 for three in 2.5 overs.
Their slide continued as the experiment of promoting Sohail Khan (nine off 12) failed when Imran picked his second wicket in the eight over. Sarfaraz Ahmed managed only four runs before he was dismissed on the last ball of the ninth over. After their captain’s return to the hut, Sindh were 47 for five.
An 80-run partnership between Khurram, who struck eight fours and two sixes in his 57-ball 74, and Danish for the sixth wicket provided stability to the innings. As the batsmen looked set to end the innings on a high, Khurram was run out on the first ball of the 18th over.
Danish, who was the only other batsman to register a double-digit score with a 27-ball 39, followed him back in the next over after being bowled by Usman Shinwari, who on the fifth ball of the 19th over also accounted for Anwar Ali (three for six).
Sindh were bowled out for 142 on the penultimate ball of their innings.
Final on Sunday:
1930 PST – Southern Punjab v Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ahsan Raza and Asif Yaqoob (on-field umpires), Rashid Riaz (third umpire), Shozab Raza (fourth umpire); Mohammad Javed (match referee)