(Cricket) Sohaib, Khushdil and Zahid keep Southern Punjab alive

Karachi

KARACHI: Southern Punjab continued their fine resurgence in the National T20 Cup for First XI teams as they recorded their third win to stay in the hunt for a semifinal spot in Rawalpindi on Thursday night.

The Shan Masood-led outfit scored a thumping 70-run victory over Sindh who have already secured one of the four semi-final spots.

Sindh finished their 10-match league round with an even win and loss record of five wins and five defeats which earned them 10 points. Southern Punjab’s last game against Balochistan has taken renewed significance after the result today. Southern Punjab would have to win the game and ensure that they improve their net-run-rate to go past both Balochistan and Central Punjab to seal the fourth semi-final spot behind Northern (table-toppers), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

A win for Balochistan would take them through to the last four. Central Punjab would have to hope Balochistan lose to Southern Punjab and both teams stay behind them on the net-run-rate to move to the semi-finals stage.

On Thursday night, Sindh’s 192- run chase got off to a poor start as Sharjeel Khan (1) and Saud Shakeel (13) perished cheaply followed by the big loss of the duo of Azam Khan (14) and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (8).

Sindh crashed to 93 for six in the 13th over as Khurram Manzoor who had kept one-end intact got run out for 49 off 35 balls (seven fours). Hassan Khan who had helped Sindh chase down two targets in Rawalpindi fell for a duck to Zahid Mahmood in the same over. Zahid had earlier dismissed Azam and Sarfaraz in what turned out to be a match winning spell of three for 20 in four top-quality overs of leg-spin bowling.

Danish Aziz who had been in rich batting form fell to Mohammad Ilyas as the Sindh chase fell away, the left-hander looked off colour today in his nine-run innings that consumed 11 balls.

The Sindh tail failed to wag as they folded for 121 runs in the 17th over giving Southern Punjab a 70-run victory which has helped them improve their net-run-rate significantly.

Ilyas provided great support to Zahid taking three wickets for 25 runs in 3.4 overs.

Reflecting on his performance, man-of-the-match Sohaib Maqsood said: “We were in a bad situation when we lost three early wickets, our approach was still very positive as we knew that we had to make big runs to ensure that we score a big win that is why we maintained an aggressive approach. The pitch was difficult to bat on, I think we bowled very well and credit must be given to our bowlers for an outstanding job. We are still alive in the tournament after this victory and are looking forward to our last game.”

Sindh asked Southern Punjab to bat first after winning the toss in what was a must win game for the side from Punjab; Southern Punjab however, got off to a dreadful start losing their first three wickets with-in the first 19 balls as left-arm-spinner Danish who took the new ball accounted for Shan Masood (4) and Hussain Talat (0). Fast bowler Sohail Khan sent back Zain Abbas for one.

Southern Punjab were rescued by the pair of man-of-the-match Sohaib Maqsood and Khushdil Shah, the two added 121 runs for the fourth-wicket partnership in only 65 balls. Khushdil who had hit a 35-ball century in the previous clash with Sindh scored 53 off 32 balls today (five fours, three sixes).

He was dismissed on the last ball of the 14th over and three balls later Sohaib became Danish’s third victim of the day. The big-hitting right-hander scored 67 off 41 balls; his match-winning innings included six fours and four sixes.

Aamer Yamin contributed 24 off 17 balls (two fours, one six) as Southern Punjab posted a formidable total of 191 for six at the end of their 20 overs. Zeeshan Ashraf (19 not out) and Muhammad Imran (13 off four balls, one six, one four) also made useful contribution in the death overs.

For Sindh, Danish took three wickets for 32 runs in four overs while Sohail Khan bowled a miserly spell conceding a mere 16 runs in his four-over quota in which he accounted for Zain and Yamin.