LAHORE: Defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made their way to the final of the National T20 Cup when they hammered Northern by five wickets in the first semi-final here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Umar Amin-led Northern posted 156 for eight for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to chase, who raced to 161 for five with five balls to spare.
The tight bowling KP unleashed on Northern was returned in the same fashion. But Iftikhar Ahmed rescued KP from disaster and led his team into the final. The target seemed impregnable after KP lost their major wickets. Iftikhar rode on the path of safety set by his team’s opener Sahibzada Farhan (53) and Kamran Ghulam (35). Iftikhar made 45 and Khalid Usman 15.
Iftikhar in his 17-ball innings hit three sixes and four fours. Khalid smashed a six over the midwicket boundary rope to seal the win.
Earlier, Farhan gave stability in the beginning as he faced 39 balls and hit seven fours and a six. Kamran took 29 balls to get to 35 which was aided by six fours. The fall of Musadiq Ahmed, Asif Afridi and Nabi Gul gave upper hand to Northern but Iftikhar snatched away the initiative from them and turned the match KP’s way.
Earlier, Northern scored 156/8 after being asked to bat. Openers Nasir Nawaz (27) and Ali Imran (24) posted 48 runs together. Skipper Umar and Zeeshan Malik stabilised the innings after both openers were dismissed in quick succession.
Umar made 22 while Zeeshan scored 29. Sohail Tanvir (19) and Aamer Jamal (19) played cameos to lead Northern to a competitive score. Umar and Sohail hit two sixes each.
Arshad Iqbal was the pick of the bowlers for KP, taking three wickets.
On Monday night, KP had thrashed Northern by 92 runs in their National T20 Cup final league match. Kamran first played cautiously to settle at the crease and then bashed every Northern bowler to crack 110 not out in 64 balls. He hit 10 fours and six sixes.
As Kamran stood out in the middle like a wall, he saw three of his fellows tumble at the other end. He had a partnership of 48 runs with Mohamamd Haris in which the latter contributed 13 runs.
Iftikhar, who was in with the fall of Nabi Gul, along with Kamran took KP from 74 for four to over 207 for four. Their 133-run unbeaten partnership took the shine off Northern bowlers’ numbers.
Iftikhar scored 54, smashing four fours and as many sixes, off 26 balls.
Aaqib Liaqat with two wickets and Athar Mahmood with one were the only successful bowlers.
In reply, Northern never got going and were folded at 115 in the 18.4 over, with eight balls to spare.
Only three of Northern’s batsmen came among runs. Rohail Nazir was the highest scorer with 23-ball 34. Umar Amin made 23, while Zeeshan Malik and Aaqib Laiqat scored 11 each.
Imran Khan, Asif Afridi and Khalid Usman got two wickets each. Arshad Iqbal, Mohammad Imran and Iftikhar grabbed one wicket each.
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