After a couple of days of high-scoring matches at the National T20 Cup, Friday was something of a regression to the mean, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beating Balochistan and Sindh coming out on top over Central Punjab. The two sides batting first put up middling totals, with the side chasing hunting the targets down with reasonable ease. It means each of these four sides have now won one and lost one game. Northern, who have two wins from two, and Southern Punjab – two losses in two – did not play on the day.
A Shaheen Afridi-inspired Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bounced back from an opening day loss to get their National T20 Cup campaign up and running with an eight-wicket drubbing of Balochistan. The Pakistan fast bowler took five wickets, sending the openers packing early and ripping through the lower-middle order to end up with figures of 4-0-20-5 to restrict Haris Sohail’s side to 152, the lowest first-innings score of the tournament so far.
Imran Butt’s 37 was the highest score for Balochistan, but it came in 32 balls, and in a high-scoring tournament, Balochistan never quite looked like they would be able to muster the sort of first-innings total to put pressure on KPK. When Wahab Riaz, whose run-a-ball economy rate was a vast improvement on the 51 he conceded in three overs on Wednesday, cleaned up Butt, there was little substance lower down.
There was little drama in the chase. Fakhar Zaman‘s cameo ensured KPK jumped ahead of the asking rate nice and early, with Mohammad Hafeez picking up the mantle at No. 3, smashing a blistering 25-ball 45. Mohammad Rizwan offered valuable company, top-scoring with an unbeaten 57, and as the bowlers failed to make any sort of inroads, Iftikhar Ahmed wrapped it up with a breezy 29 off 16. KPK would get to the target with three overs still to spare, drawing level with Balochistan on points; both sides now have a win apiece.
In the late game, Sindh got their first win of the campaign in similarly resounding fashion, inflicting a first defeat on Central Punjab. After Central Punjab had managed a stuttering 154, chiefly thanks to Abid Ali’s half-century, Sindh’s 134-run opening partnership ensured they barely needed anyone else to brush the total aside, with Sharjeel Khan‘s explosive 56-ball 77 enough to sink Central Punjab by seven wickets.
Sindh’s bowling was a team effort, with Sohail Khan accounting for three of the top five, while Mohammad Asghar was economically soundest, taking 2 for 23 in his four. Only one bowler – Mohammad Hasnain – conceded runs at more than eight per over, while Central Punjab’s hero last game, Abdullah Shafique, struggled for fluency today, taking 25 balls to score 17.
But while Central Punjab had made short work of chasing a total in excess of 200 the first time out, it turned out defending 154 was a different kettle of fish altogether. Even with a bowling attack spearheaded by Naseem Shah, they were unable to stem the flow of runs or make any inroads into the Sindh batting line-up, with Sharjeel and Khurram Manzoor methodically keeping the scoreboard ticking while putting away loose deliveries to ensure they maintained firm control of the contest. With Sharjeel in a destructive mood, Manzoor could afford to be more circumspect, getting to his own half-century in 45 balls.
Both openers did fall in quick succession and as the asking rate crept up, there may have been brief concerns that Sindh might mess the chase up, but a pair of sixes from Azam Khan in the penultimate over sealed the deal. It ensured all four teams that played on the day ended with one win and one after two games each.