An unbeaten 52-ball 86 from Babar Azam and an all-round show by Faheem Ashraf powered a new-look Central Punjab to a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Northern, ending their five-match winning streak. The duo missed the side’s first encounter in Multan with Azam playing in the Vitality Blast and Ashraf recovering from a knee injury. They shared an unbeaten 105-run partnership for the third wicket to steer their side home with three overs still to spare.
Ashraf had also taken four wickets, conceding just 18 runs after Northern won the toss and opted to bat first. These included three of Northern’s top four, helping reduce the defending champions to 52 for 4. Shadab Khan chipped in with a quickfire 39 off 25, while Asif Ali’s blistering 40-ball 67 off 40 changed the momentum somewhat and saw Northern surge to 165, a total they might have considered possible to defend.
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But Central Punjab responded aggressively with Kamran Akmal and Azam putting on a 54-run opening stand to wrest back control of the match. Khan removed Akmal and Abdullah Shafique, and while that might have proved the turning point in Azam’s absence, the Pakistan captain ensured his side stayed well on top. In a chanceless innings, he kept the scoreboard ticking over, while Ashraf at the other end provided the fireworks during his 52 not out off 26. It meant the chase ended up being a cakewalk, keeping Central Punjab afloat with a much-needed win, just their second in six matches.