Northern’s dominance in the tournament shows no signs of ending, with Shadab Khan‘s side beating Balochistan by seven wickets; they have now beaten all five opponents in as many games. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, meanwhile, are hot on their heels, edging out Sindh to claim their fourth win in five.
Fakhar Zaman‘s form in the tournament continued, the Pakistan left-hander’s second 60-plus score in 24 hours powering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to a 29-run win over Central Punjab. He struck five sixes and three boundaries to help Khyber surge to 178.In the second innings, the bowlers bowled out Central Punjab for 149 to register their fourth successive win in the tournament so far, and inflict a fourth straight loss on their opponents in the process.
Shoaib Malik gave Zaman support with a breezy 27 off 24 even though the red-hot Mohammad Hafeez could only manage 17. Asked to bowl first, Central’s bowlers remained accurate without getting enough wickets to put too much pressure on Khyber. Ahmed Bashir was the pick of Central Punjab’s bowlers with three wickets, while Zafar Gohar, Ehsan Adil, and Usman Qadir shared a wicket each.
While chasing, Central had a shaky start losing a wicket in the opening over, and managing just 34 in the first five. A 92-run partnership between Kamran Akmal and Abdullah Shafiq put them on top, but once Shoaib Malik coaxed a false shot off Akmal, Central Punjab began to wobble. They never got a partnership together again, losing their last nine wickets for 50 runs, while Asif Afridi, Arshad Iqbal, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan snared two wickets apiece to secure the win.
In the evening contest, a flawless Northern thumped Balochistan to register their fifth straight win, cementing their position at the top of the table before the tournament moves to Rawalpindi. Losing the toss and forced to chase, they eased to their target of 157 with seven wickets and 13 balls in hand. At the midway point, Northern have beaten each team once.
Chasing for the first time in the tournament, Northern lost opener Ali Imran early but Rohail Nazir (42 off 27) and Umar Amin (30 off 25) put on a 56 runs for second wicket to put them back in control. Yasir Shah, who took three wickets yesterday in a successful defence, removed both at crucial moments but couldn’t stop both Asif Ali – whose unbeaten 30-ball 41 sealed the game – and Hammad Azam from taking their side home.
Earlier in the evening, after opting to bat first to bat first, Balochistan got off to a sluggish start losing the top three inside five overs. Awais Zia’s brisk eight-ball 14 looked to get them going but when he and Bismillah Khan fell cheaply, Balochistan were forced to regroup again. Mohammad Amir and Sohail Tanvir were both economical and incisive, their eight overs combined for just 58 runs and four wickets. Haris Sohail (51 off 41) and Akbar-ur-Rehman (38 off 32) got together for an 83-run partnership to put a respectable total on the board, one not too distant from the 168 they had managed to defend 24 hours earlier. But Northern are a different prospect, and one for whom a target of 157 wasn’t nearly challenging enough.