LAHORE-Balochistan registered their fourth win in six games to move a step closer to securing a semi-final berth in the 17th match of the National T20 Cup for First XI teams at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Saturday. Opener Awais Zia scored an unbeaten 92 to ensure his team easily surpass the 155-run chase against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Balochistan are now at the second spot in the six-team table with eight points from six matches behind Northern who have 10 points from six matches.
Awais faced a mere 49 balls (10 fours, four sixes) in his brilliant effort that ensured Balochistan’s six wicket victory with 20 balls to spare. Balochistan lost two early wickets as Shaheen Shah Afridi continued his stunning bowling form by dismissing newcomer Abdul Wahid Bangalzai for a duck and Bismillah Khan for 18 in a pacy opening spell.
Imran Butt fell for nine while Balochistan lost their captain Haris Sohail for one run before Awais was joined by Akbar-ur-Rehman in what turned out to be a match winning unbroken partnership of 88 runs for the fifth wicket. Akbar scored 24 off 22 balls, he hit three fours. Shaheen took two wickets for 38 runs in his four over spell but found little support at the other end as Balochistan batsmen especially Awais dominated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa attack with sustained stroke play.
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Reflecting on his performance, man-of-the-match Awais Zia said: “My start wasn’t bad in Multan but I was struggling a bit to convert my starts, I was a bit unlucky. Today the responsibility was on me with Imam’s absence as my opening partner and I am happy that I made it count. My management and captain Haris Sohail were supporting me throughout and kept sending me messages that I needed to stay at the wicket since I can score quick runs whenever the opportunity comes.”
Earlier, Balochistan opted to bowl first after winning the toss. Their bowlers produced a commendable job to restrict the powerful Khyber Pakhtunkhwa batting line-up to 154 for six in 20 overs. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lost captain Mohammad Rizwan (5) and Mohammad Hafeez (4) cheaply. Fakhar Zaman (33 off 34 balls, two fours, three sixes) added 38 runs for the third wicket with Shoaib Malik.
Malik then added 69 runs for the fourth wicket with Sahibzada Farhan who contributed 12 runs to the partnership. The seasoned Malik became the first Pakistan batsman (third overall) to reach the milestone of 10,000 runs in T20 cricket. Malik appeared in his 395th T20 match today, he joined the 10,000-run club mark when he reached 47. Malik held the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa innings together before falling to Umar Gul for 74. His innings included eight fours and two sixes and came off 44 balls. Left-armer Akif Javed with two wickets for 20 runs was the most successful Balochistan bowler.
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SCORES IN BRIEF
BALOCHISTAN 156-4, 16.4 overs (Awais Zia 92 not out, Akbar-ur-Rehman 24 not out; Shaheen Shah Afridi 2-38) beat KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 154-6, 20 overs (Shoaib Malik 74, Fakhar Zaman 33; Akif Javed 2-20) by six wickets.