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Pakistan National T20 Cup – Shaheen Afridi’s second five-for seals dominant Khyber Pakhtunkhwa win

The day saw two matches of contrasting excitement, with Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa trouncing Sindh by eight wickets thanks to another five-wicket haul from Shaheen Afridi, while an Imam-ul-Haq inspired Balochistan beat Central Punjab in a low-scoring thriller

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beat Sindh by 8 wickets

Shaheen Afridi’s second five-wicket haul of the tournament inspired Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to their third win in four matches, beating Sindh by eight wickets. Afridi removed the top three and returned at the death to pick up another two wickets to restrict Sindh to 184, despite a 111-run partnership between opener Sharjeel Khan, who smashed 90 off just 56 balls, and Ahsan Ali, who contributed with 42.

Before Afridi returned for his second spell, Sindh sat pretty at 165 for three with three overs still to go, well on target to achieve 200, which has become the de facto par score for the tournament. By the time the innings was finished, however, Afridi had figures of 5-21, and Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side had fallen well short of that mark. It was something of a lone hand from Afridi, with seasoned hands Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Hafeez going at 11 and 14 per over respectively.

There was no fuss about the way KP went about the chase. Fakhar Zaman’s 41-ball 61 was an effective riposte to Sharjeel’s knock at the top, with the left-hander shaking off the early loss of opening partner Mohammad Rizwan. Four fours and as many sixes from Hafeez in a knock that saw him plunder 72 off 42 effectively continued his bright start to the competition, while an unbeaten 21-ball 40 from Iftikhar Ahmed took the game beyond the finish line.

None of Sindh’s bowlers were able to make much of an impression. Anwar Ali did take both wickets, but it couldn’t stop him from conceding 40 in his four, with Mir Hamza and Mohammad Asghar’s 7 overs combining for 79. It condemned Sindh to their third loss in four games, which means they sit only above Southern Punjab in the table, who have lost all four matches.

Balochistan beat Central Punjab by 3 runs

In the evening game, Balochistan defended 168 in a thrilling contest thanks to Umar Gul and Yasir Shah sharing seven Central Punjab wickets between them. Thirty-six year-old Umar Gul rolled back the years to take four wickets, crucially dismissing Kamran Akmal, who, with 25 off 15, was threatening to play the sort of match-winning knock he has delivered so often at this level. The centurion in the first game, 20-year old Abdullah Shafiq, followed up with another impressive half-century before Gul cleaned up his stumps to bring Balochistan back into the game. From the other end, Yasir kept making regular inroads, removing Abid Ali, Rizwan Hussain and captain Saad Nasim before Umaid Asif held his nerve in the final over, restricting Central Punjab to 165.

Having elected to bat first, Baochistan didn’t quite capitalise in the way they might have planned, though Imam-ul-Haq’s hot form continued, the opener scoring a 55-ball 80. But he didn’t have much company alongside him once Awais Zia and Haris Sohail fell; no other batsman so much as managed double-figures. Central Punjab’s bowlers might have felt they had done enough to win the game, opening bowlers Qasim Akram and Sohaibullah only conceding 58 in their eight overs, while Ehsan Adil and Zafar Gohar took five wickets between them. Failure to get rid of Imam, however, proved crucial, with Balochistan putting up just enough on the board to fetch them their third win in four.

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