National T20 Cup: Sohaib, Aamer secure semifinal spot for Southern Punjab in epic run chase
Sohaib Maqsood blasted 81 off 29 balls to seal a dramatic win for Southern Punjab and the last semi-final spot in the final group match of the National T20 Cup for the First XIs, played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Southern Punjab beat Balochistan by seven wickets
Balochistan 161-6, 20 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 48, Bismillah Khan 41, Akbar-ur-Rehman 37, Haris Sohail 24; Muhammad Imran 2-34)
Southern Punjab 166-3, 10.4 overs (Sohaib Maqsood 81, Aamer Yamin 33 not out, Hussain Talat 20 not out, Zeeshan Ashraf 21; Amad Butt 2-51)
Player of the match – Sohaib Maqsood (Southern Punjab)
Southern Punjab, who had languished at the bottom of the points table for the most part of the tournament, had to chase 162 runs within 12.3 overs to progress to the next round. They ended up plundering 166 at the loss of three wickets in just 10.4 overs against Balochistan, which along with eliminating the Haris Sohail-led unit dashed Central Punjab’s hopes of qualifying for the next round.
That the herculean task was turned into a cakewalk was because of Sohaib, who was sent to open the innings with wicketkeeper-batsman Zeeshan Ashraf and smashed 13 fours and four sixes.
The pair provided the run chase a profound start with a blistering 87-run alliance from just 5.3 overs. They made their intentions clear from the onset as the gathered 14 runs from the first over bowled by Umar Gul, who was making his final appearance in competitive cricket, before adding 20 more to their total in the next over bowled by Taj Wali.
The sparkling opening stand ended with Zeeshan’s dismissal as he was caught by Taj Wali off Amad Butt after scoring a quickfire 10-ball 21.
The dismissal, however, did not dent the scoring rate as Southern Punjab added 17 more in the next six balls. On the seventh delivery, Sohaib joined his opening partner back in the pavilion after he had gathered 81 runs at a staggering strike rate of just under 280 and set the tone for the heroic run chase.
Reflecting on his performance, man-of-the-match Sohaib Maqsood said: “After the first over, I told my partner that we can turn this run chase into a possibility as 13 to 14 runs an over were achievable. We were given clear instructions that either hit out or get out. This win will go a big way in uplifting the mood in the camp. We will look to meet the expectations of our fans when we play semi final tomorrow.”
Aamer Yamin and Hussain Talat ensured that the take Southern Punjab over the line with a scorching undefeated stand of 53 from just 19 balls. Aamer smacked four sixes and a four in his nine-ball 33 not out. Hussain returned not out at 20 from just 11 balls at the back of two fours and a six.
Early in the evening, Balochistan won the toss and opted to bat first. They got off to a rough start as Awais Zia was dismissed for one off five balls. Imam-u-Haq and Bismillah Khan got together and knitted a 69-run partnership off 54 balls for the second wicket.
Imam contributed a 37-ball 48, hitting three fours and two sixes, while Bismillah struck two fours and as many sixes in his 35-ball 41.
Haris was the next batsman to go, falling to Mohammad Ilyas before scoring 24 from 17 balls. Akbar-ur-Rehman coming to bat at number five remained unbeaten on 37 from 21 balls. His innings included three fours and two sixes and helped his side to post 161 for six in 20 overs.
For Southern Punjab, Muhammad Imran was the most successful bowler taking two wickets for 34 runs, while Aamer Yamin, Ilyas and Zahid Mahmood grabbed a wicket apiece.
Semi-finals on Saturday:
1500 PST – Northern v Southern Punjab. Asif Yaqoob and Rashid Riaz (on-field umpires), Imtiaz Iqbal (third umpire), Imran Javed (fourth umpire); Mohammad Javed (match referee)
1930 PST – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa v Sindh. Ahsan Raza and Shozab Raza (on-field umpires), Ghaffar Kazmi (third umpire), Saqib Khan (fourth umpire); Ali Naqvi (match referee)