PIA and NBP to face-off in final
A collective bowling display by Pakistan International Airlines helped them beat Multan Tigers convincingly by six wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium and qualify for the RBS Cup final. Fast bowlers Fazl-e-Akbar, who has played five Tests for Pakistan, and Najaf Shah shared six wickets as Multan were bowled out for a paltry 171 in the 36th over. Multan, after being asked to bat, were tottering at 64 for 7 but No. 9 Rizwan Haider showed some spunk with 51 off 42 balls, adding 55 for the eighth wicket with Mohammad Hafeez and 47 with Abdur Rauf for the ninth.
However, Multan's late recovery did not pose too much of a challenge for PIA, whose openers, Khurram Manzoor and Sarfraz Ahmed, added a quick 70. Sarfraz was the more attacking of the two, scoring a 37-ball 50, while Khurram (62) lent stability to the PIA innings after his partner's dismissal. Though offspinner Sohaib Maqsood took three wickets, PIA were never in any danger, racing to victory with nearly 20 overs to spare. Multan had topped the Group A table with five wins out of five; their departure from the tournament is reminiscent of South Africa's 1996 World Cup campaign where they won each of their five league matches only to exit the tournament in their first game in the knockout round, losing to West Indies.
The Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad played host to a more closely contested semi-final, with National Bank of Pakistan fighting back from a precarious 132 for 6 to overhaul Lahore Lions' 267 and win by four wickets in the penultimate over. The seventh-wicket pair of Qaiser Abbas, who has played one Test, and Wahab Riaz added an unbeaten, match-winning 139 to ensure their team's place in the final. Runs came freely as Abbas blasted 93 off 71 balls - his innings was laced with 11 fours and a six - and Riaz, who also starred with the ball taking 3 for 48, played a more patient but invaluable hand, scoring 42 off 66. The Lahore bowlers had earlier struck at frequent intervals, preventing batsmen from running away with the game despite getting starts - opener Nasir Jamshed scored 37 and No. 4 Umar Amin made 34 - and they were helped by NBP losing two wickets to run-outs.
After being put in, Lahore had themselves recovered from 135 for 5 to post a challenging score. They were up against a formidable bowling line-up: Mohammad Talha represented Pakistan in the Test series against Sri Lanka, Riaz has played five ODIs, and Uzair-ul-Haq, who finished with figures of 3 for 59, is the tournament's highest wicket-taker. Half-centuries from Kashif Siddiq and captain Junaid Zia helped their team seize the initiative, though their bowlers, after dominating for much of NBP's innings, wilted against the seventh-wicket pair to lose out on a place in the finals.