Sialkot romp to third successive win
Imran Nazir led by example with a rollicking 40 to guide Sialkot Stallions to their third successive win, beating Peshawar Panthers by five wickets. Nazir started the match on the right note by winning the toss and putting in; in helpful conditions, Mohammad Asif, Sarfraz Ahmed and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan chipped in collectively to dismiss a Younis Khan-less Peshawar for 126. It was never going to be enough as first Nazir, caning all his runs in boundaries, and then Shahid Yousuf with a more cultured 38 saw Sialkot home with overs to spare. Three games gone and Sialkot are looking worthy title contenders.
Who says players don't take this competition seriously? After Rawalpindi Rams had been restricted to a middling 157 - only Mohammad Waseem and Sohail Tanvir could repel the dangers of Imran Farhat's leg-spin (three for 26) and Sohail Ahmed's slow left-arm - Lahore Eagles were coasting to their second win in three games. Mohammad Ashfaq was one away from a maiden century (and the third in Pakistan's Twenty20), three were needed for victory and Najaf Shah promptly came along and bowled a deliberate leg-side wide which went for four. Ashfaq, tragically, remained unbeaten on 99, Lahore moved closer to the semi-finals, Rawalpindi further away from it, but Lahore refused to shake hands with their opponents so upset were they at the act. Competition lives on.
Multan Tigers beat Karachi Zebras by virtue of having made more runs in the first 10 overs (94 as opposed to 82) after both sides ended 173 for nine . Have Karachi Zebras become king of the ties? Probably not, for after beating Peshawar two days ago by virtue of losing lesser wickets, they were beaten by Multan despite both teams ending at 173 for nine: the match was decided in hindsight on who scored more in the first 10 overs. Karachi opener Khurram Manzoor had more reason than most to feel hard done by, having scored the competition's third hundred (and second of the day) off 61 balls to set Karachi on their way. They lost direction thereafter collapsing from 108 for one. Multan should have been outright winners for they were 159 for three at one stage, with Saeed Anwar jnr and Hasnain Abbas embedded in a 113-run partnership. But they imploded to Hasan Raza's curiously effective wrong-foot leg-spin and mad running; having not won a game (and lost the last one due to a power failure) they won't mind how their wins come, as long as they do.
If Pakistan don't pick Taufeeq Umar as opener they may have to as their next all-rounder. Discarded from the national team since early last year, Umar reminded them of his batting prowess and then revealed his bowling skill later to help Lahore Lions to a comfortable fourth successive win, this time against Islamabad Leopards. He first became only the second man - after Moin Khan last year - to score a Twenty20 century in Pakistan, from only 60 balls; a140-run opening stand and a typically languid Abdul Razzaq salvo towards the end saw Lahore pile up a massive 234. The target was never realistic but Umar, having taken two catches as well, decided to put his gentle right-arm off-spin to use, sending back four Islamabad batsmen for only 11 runs in three overs. The Man of the Match was never in any doubt and neither is Lahore Lions' place in the semi-final.
Andrew Flintoff can bat and bowl, but can he keep as well? Afsar Nawaz has been doing all three, successfully, for Karachi Dolphins and another truly all-round performance saw his side move closer to the semi-finals , beating Quetta Bears by six wickets. Nawaz began by keeping wickets, taking a catch, then coming onto bowl to take a wicket with his off-breaks. Despite a captain's 50 from the hulking Faisal Irfan, Quetta were dismissed for 154, off-spinner Irfanuddin ending with his second four-wicket haul of the tournament. Far be it from Nawaz to let anyone else steal the limelight and he came in at the fall of an early wicket, added 73 for the second wicket with Khalid Latif, totted up 64 for himself (to follow 71, 27 and 61) and coolly walked off with the win and match prize. And he may well ask, who is Freddie Flintoff?
Faisal Athar and Pir Zulfiqar starred with bat and ball respectively as Hyderabad Hawks beat Abbottabad Rhinos by nine wickets. The Hawks bounced back in style (after losing to Islamabad Leopards on Sunday), reaching the target of 175 comfortably with four balls to spare. Zulfiqar, the slow left arm bowler, picked up four wickets and wrapped up the Rhinos' innings. Ali Naqvi, the former Pakistan opener, top-scored for the Rhinos with 45. Kashif Raza, the right arm medium bowler, chipped in with three wickets. The Hawks got off to a solid start, putting on 60 for the first wicket. Aqeel Anjum retired hurt after he scored 26 while Hanif-ur-Rehman made a quick-fire 43 off 26 balls. Athar remained not out on 66 till the end, scoring seven boundaries and a six.