LAHORE: Khyber Pakhutunkhwa, after early jolts, made a quick work of Central Punjab in the finals to successfully defend the National T20 title by seven wickets, here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Central Punjab crawled to 141 for all in 19.2 overs as the KPK struggled to surpass the score getting 152 for three in 17 overs.
The main credit of the win went to Iftikhar Ahmed and Adil Amin, who contributed 52 runs to win the match for the fourth wicket.
Iftikhar remained not out at 45 in 19 balls that came with the help of six fours and two sixes while Adil’s unbeaten 25 came in 21 balls laced with two fours.
Central Punjab (CP) skipper Wahab Riaz in defence of their low score threw an opening maiden over to portray their ambitions that the match was not going to be easy for KPK.
His attack partner Sameen Gul was smacked with two back to back boundaries, a four and a six in the second over by Mohammad Haris. But Sameen responded with the wicket of KPK’s opener Haris on the fifth ball.
So the defending champions were at 10 for one. The troubled KPK relied on Sahibzada Farhan, who was then joined by Kamran Ghulam.
As CP maintained their tight bowling, KPK kept the scoreboard ticking with singles and doubles and the upper hand they had was their nine wickets still in hand. When KPK reached 57 in 9th over, Qasim Akram halted Farhan’s (26) progress with Shahzad taking a brilliant running catch at long on boundary.
But, on the other hand, Kamran Ghulam started to frustrate CP with his careful play. Mohammad Faizan in the 13th over got the major breakthrough with Ghulam’s wicket. He was made to edge the ball to Akmal behind the wickets. Ghulam made 31-ball 37 with the help of two fours and a six. Responsibility then fell on Adil Amin, who was joined by Iftikhar Ahmed. At 90 for three, these two KPK batters shaved off the deficit by the 17th over and won the match with three overs to spare. Sameen Gul, Mohamamd Faizan and Qasim Akram chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Invited to bat, Central Punjab was in trouble from the very first over when KPK pacer Imran Khan senior made opener Mohammad Akhlaq knick the ball to Haris behind the wickets. The burden, like the semi-final, fell on the shoulders of veteran Kamran Akmal and Ahmed Shahzad. Together both the batters put up 84 runs for the second wicket before Kamran departed in the same fashion as of Akhlaq but this time on the bowling of Khalid Usman for 42 runs that came off 29 balls and was studded with three fours and two sixes.
After losing his partner, Shahzad got frustrated and mistimed Iftikhar Ahmed high up at long on in the very next over (12th) for his personal 44 that came in 36 balls with four fours and a six. At that point in time, Central Punjab was 89 for three in 11.4 overs. After break in Kamran and Shahzad partnership, the Central Punjab batting received jolts one after the other.
Hussain Talat was then joined by Saif Babar at the crease but their partnership was short-lived when the latter was caught at deep midwicket off Iftikhar and was taken by Nabi Gul for his seven. Iftikhar then trapped Talat, reducing CP at 101 for five. Qasim Akram and Mohammad Faizan launched the Central Punjab campaign but KPK turned the initiative their way. Mohammad Imran in the 18th over separated Wasim and Faizan. He first bowled Faizan for eight and then Qasim (2), leaving CP in tatters at 131 for seven.
Wahab Riaz and Faheem Ashraf did their best to add maximum runs possible to their total. Faheem hit two fours and a six in his 14 runs and six balls innings to take the score to 147 for eight in 18.4 overs. He was followed by the new entrant Zafar Gohar on the very first ball he faced for a duck and the entire batting of central Punjab folded in 19.2 overs when Wahab Riaz too went back cheaply.
Mohammad Imran and Iftikhar Ahmed were the stars of KPK bowling when they shared three wickets each while Arshad Iqbal had two and Imran Khan and Khalid Usman shared one wicket each.
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