All-Lahore final set for National T20 Cup
Lahore Whites beat Faisalabad by 10 runs to qualify for the National T20 Cup final. In an emotion-filled afternoon that turned out to be the last of Saeed Ajmal's cricketing career, Lahore posted 142 in their allotted 20 overs. At the time, it seemed to be slightly under par, especially given the platform Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal provided, their opening partnership contributing 69 runs in seven overs.
But Faisalabad pulled them back, and for one final time, 40-year old Ajmal was the pick of the bowlers. Varying his pace and line expertly, he kept the batsmen on their toes, reining in the scoring rate, conceding a miserly 13 runs in his four overs, and picking up one wicket.
Faisalabad were on top of the asking rate for the first half of the chase, but continued to lose wickets with regularity. Once the dangerous Sohaib Maqsood was dismissed for 39, Lahore were into the lower middle order, which was somewhat thin on star batting quality. From thereon, the Whites began to tighten the screws as the asking rate began to climb. Wahab Riaz was especially impressive, finding both pace and accuracy as he finished with figures of 4-0-15-2. Faisalabad grew desperate, and were ultimately all out with ten runs still to get.
In the other game, a stunning century from Ahmed Shehzad ensured an all-Lahore final, the Lahore Blues beating FATA by 10 runs. In a runfest, Lahore Blues registered the highest score of the tournament - 221. They lost just the one wicket - that of Imam-ul-Haq, but not before he had added 62 runs in a 145-run opening stand with Ahmed Shehzad. After that, Mohammad Hafeez smashed a 19-ball half century as he and Shehzad - who finished unbeaten for 104, propelled their side to 221.
FATA started explosively, with Mukhtar Ahmed in devastating hitting form as he and Awais Zia brought up the 50-partnership in the fourth over. The hundred was up before nine overs were out, but the loss of Mukhtar deprived FATA of the big hitting ability that they needed to chase such a mammoth total. Several batsmen gave it a good go and ensured FATA were in the contest right up to the end. Khushdil Shah played a superb knock that raised hopes of a sensational heist, but when he holed out to long on for 56, the total seemed to be just outside FATA's reach. They kept hammering away in spirited fashion, but in the end paid for their poor bowling performance as they bowed out at the semi-final stage.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000