KARACHI: Shoaib Malik-led Punjab on Sunday (today) face Younis Khan-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in what could be a crunch day-night final of the Pakistan Cup 2016 at Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad.
Punjab qualified for the final on the basis of net run-rate after they defeated a strong Sindh by five wickets in their last league outing on Friday.
After losing their initial two matches, Punjab made a stunning comeback by winning their remaining two games and surpassed both Sindh and Balochistan on net run-rate to qualify for the decider.
KP, on the other hand, had a nice league round as they won three outings out of four to make it to the final.
KP had also defeated Punjab by just two runs in their league round thanks to a splendid last over by Test pacer Rahat Ali, who took 4-42 in ten overs.
However, after that game, the experienced fast bowler was forced by back injury to stay away from the rest of the tournament.
Former Pakistan captain Younis Khan joined KP on Friday night. He was also part of the two-hour long practice session of KP at the Iqbal Stadium on Saturday.
Younis had left KP after a row with an umpire. The Mardan-born batsman had led his side in the initial two matches.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), initially, served him with a show-cause notice and stopped him from playing in the event. However, it later changed its stance and allowed Younis to re-join his side after he apologised to the PCB for breaching clauses of his central contract.
Sources said that Younis on Friday night was warmly received by his team when he joined it at a dinner in Faisalabad arranged by the Test opener Ahmed Shehzad, who led KP in their last two matches in Younis’s absence.
Younis will take the place of the left-handed batsman Israrullah, who failed in the previous match.
KP would need a handy input from their opening pair of Ahmed Shehzad and Fakhar Zaman, who have so far batted extremely well. The role of skipper Younis and all-rounder Zohaib Khan would also be of immense importance.
In bowling, left-arm pacer Zia-ul-Haq would be the key. Test leggie Yasir Shah will have to show his magic in the vital clash. Yasir did not impress much in the previous matches.
Left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar, young under-19 pacer Sameen Gul and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf would be the other ammunition at the disposal of Younis. KP assistant coach Abdul Rehman said it would be a tough game.
“You know both sides are balanced and I think it would be a good final,” Rehman told this correspondent.
Punjab coach Atiq-Uz-Zaman was also confident about his team’s winning chances.
“No doubt, our team has been playing well. And we definitely have a good chance but you know in cricket the team that plays well on the day wins,” Atiq told ‘The News.
Punjab have a good top order in the shape of Salman Butt, Shan Masood, Asad Shafiq and skipper Shoaib Malik, who have all played their role in the league matches.
International stumper Mohammad Rizwan and young Saif Badar add to their batting strength. Test pacer Ehsan Adil will lead the bowling pack which also has impressive all-rounders Aamer Yamin and Amad Butt who have so far done an excellent job. The role of left-arm spinners Zulfiqar Babar and Kashif Bhatti would also be important. Ahsan Reza and Shozab Reza will supervise the match.