KARACHI: It took a superhuman performance from Danish Aziz to enable Sindh maintain their winning run in the National T20 Cup on Tuesday with an astounding last-ball finish against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Rawalpindi.
Sindh were heading for a certain defeat at the Pindi Cricket Stadium when a terrible mix-up involving Danish, who scored a 47-ball 72, resulted in the run-out of young all-rounder Hassaan Khan, without facing a ball. That left on the brink at 34-7 after eight overs in pursuit of a 139-run chase on a tricky pitch.
Danish — overly desperate to redeem himself for that Hassaan dismissal — and discarded Pakistan all-rounder Anwar Ali brought their side back in contention during a stunning turnaround, while combining to add 77 in 61 deliveries.
There was more drama to come though when Mohammad Rizwan plucked one of the finest catches out of nowhere to break the partnership. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa skipper — who had handed the wicket-keeping duties to young debutant Mohammad Haris — sprinted some 25 metres from edge of the circle at mid-off when Anwar sent the ball high into the evening skies in a futile attempt to smash spinner Musadiq Ahmed out of the ground.
But Anwar, nonetheless, had done a sterling job with his priceless 32-ball 33 (three boundaries). His departure meant Sindh still required another 28 runs to secure their third triumph — and third on the trot — in eight matches to surge into third spot in the standings.
Danish, however, remained as composed as ever to see Sindh over the line by scoring the remaining 19 runs — 20 to be exact — in the final over from Iftikhar Ahmed, who bowled slow medium instead of his normal off-spin. The 24-year-old, who also oversaw Sindh’s win over Central Punjab on Saturday, ended an electrifying encounter by hoisting a straight six when Sindh still needed five from one ball.
Danish’s man-of-the-match innings contained eight fours and four sixes.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Usman Khan Shinwari turned in a rare all-round show. Upfront the right-handed tailender top-scored with a 15-ball cameo of 36 (three sixes and two fours) in what was his highest score in all limited-overs matches.
And then in his customary role as the left-arm paceman, Usman rocked Sindh’s batting by dismissing Khurram Manzoor and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed for 13 apiece before removing the promoted Sohail Khan for a duck. He finished with 3-20 from four overs, but his heroics ultimately went in vain.
Central Punjab, meanwhile, unearthed another hero late on Monday in the shape of seam bowler Ahmed Bashir while cruising to a comprehensive nine-wicket win against Balochistan and thereby rekindled their semi-final aspirations.
Making just his second appearance in the ongoing competition after taking three wickets against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Multan during the first leg, the 24-year-old Ahmed recorded career-best analysis of 4-23 as Balochistan mustered a below par tally of 125-8 after having opted to bat first.
Central Punjab then made a light meal of the modest target. Babar Azam led by example with his third straight 50-plus score in as many appearances. Following a brace of 86s, the Pakistan limited-overs captain serenely hit 64 from 40 balls with the aid of nine fours and two sixes to see his team home with more than six overs to spare.
Kamran Akmal made a breezy 27-ball 33 whole striking six boundaries during opening stand of 86 inside the opening nine overs with Babar, who then saw Abdullah Shafiq make a 15-ball 27 (four fours) in their unbroken stand worth 41 runs.
When this report was being Southern Punjab were battling to stay in the tournament in their derby clash with Central Punjab on Tuesday night.
Scores in brief:
Played on Tuesday:
Sindh beat Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by two wickets.
KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 138-9 in 20 overs (Usman Khan Shinwari 36 not out, Musadiq Ahmed 25; Sohail Khan 2-12, Hassaan Khan 2-21, Mohammad Hasnain 2-36); SINDH 140-8 in 20 overs (Danish Aziz 72 not out, Anwar Ali 33; Usman Khan Shinwari 3-20, Imran Khan 2-27).
Played on Monday night:
Central Punjab beat Balochistan by nine wickets.
BALOCHISTAN 125-8 in 20 overs (Haris Sohail 41; Ahmed Bashir 4-23, Qasim Akram 2-7); CENTRAL PUNJAB 127-1 in 13.4 overs (Babar Azam 64 not out, Kamran Akmal 33, Abdullah Shafiq 27 not out).
Wednesday’s fixtures: Northern vs Sindh (3:00pm); Central Punjab vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (7:30pm).