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September 28, 2020

Central Punjab, Sindh hope for change of fortunes


September 28, 2020

LAHORE: Central Punjab and Sindh will be hoping for change of fortunes when the National T20 Cup commences on September 30 in Multan.

Despite carrying star-studded line-ups in the last edition of the tournament, the two teams made early exits from Faisalabad, failing to reach the knockout stage.

Central Punjab will be looking to avenge their last year’s defeat when they take on Sarfraz Ahmed’s men on October 2 at the Multan Cricket Stadium and October 10 at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi.

Central Punjab boast a glittering line-up led by Pakistan’s limited overs captain Babar Azam. He had an impressive tour of England. In his subsequent run in the England T20 competition, Babar smashed a career-best 114 not out, hitting nine fours and five sixes in a 62-ball innings.

Babar was one of the only two batsmen to record a century in the previous edition of the National T20 Cup.

Babar will join Central Punjab in the second leg, which commences in Rawalpindi from October 9. Until then, all-rounder Saad Nasim will lead Central Punjab.

Kamran Akmal, another established T20 batsman, further strengthens Central Punjab’s batting department. Kamran is the leading run scorer in the history of the HBL Pakistan Super League, one of the most competitive T20 tournaments around the world, with 1,537 runs at a strike rate of over 138. The Peshawar Zalmi wicketkeeper-batsman has three centuries in the tournament, the last one of which was recorded in the fourth fixture of the 2020 edition during a 149-run chase against Quetta Gladiators at Karachi’s National Stadium.

The presence of all-rounders Faheem Ashraf, Saad and Zafar Gohar not only lengthens Central Punjab’s batting line-up but also increases their bowling options.

Seventeen-year-old pacer Naseem Shah, who has won admirers all over the world with his pace and exceptional skill of moving the ball both in the air and off the surface, is expected to spearhead their bowling attack. Naseem will have the experienced lanky right-arm pacer Ehsan Adil as his potential fast bowling pair.

Central Punjab’s spin bowling unit will be led by Pakistan Test spinner Bilal Asif. While Bilal will bring the ball into the right-handed batsmen, Usman Qadir and Zafar will spin the ball away from their hitting arc with their wrist and finger spin, respectively.

Sindh are another side in the tournament who have their all bases covered. They are captained by former Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed.

Sharjeel Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Ahsan Ali, Azam Khan and Asad Shafiq form the core of their dynamic batting unit.

Openers Sharjeel and Khurram have made a big impression with their ability to score runs at a brisk rate. Left-handed Sharjeel scored 199 runs at an impressive strike-rate of 144.20 in the HBL PSL 2020.

Khurram is the leading run-scorer in the history of the National T20 Cup with 2,235 runs in 75 innings at an average of 30.20.

Twenty-two-year-old Azam Khan left a mark in this year’s HBL PSL for his ability of hitting big sixes. The wicketkeeper-batsman accumulated 150 runs at a strike rate of over 130.

Sindh’s bowling unit is equally impressive. It possesses young gun Mohammad Hasnain who not only has the ability to clock 150kph but also to hit yorker length in the death overs to deny batsmen any scoring opportunities. The right-arm pacer, who represents Quetta Gladiators, is currently leading the wicket-takers charts in the HBL PSL 2020 with 15 scalps to his name at an average of 19.13. In the last year’s National T20 Cup, Hasnain had the most wickets – nine at 18.22 – for Sindh.

Right-arm pacer Sohail Khan will spearhead Sindh’s bowling attack and is expected to take the new ball. The 36-year-old has taken 117 wickets in the shortest format.