Sialkot and Peshawar seal semi-final spots
Shoaib Malik led Sialkot Stallions, the defending champions, into the semi-finals with a comfortable seven-wicket win against Hyderabad Hawks. Malik's astute 53, helped equally by breezy thirties from Shahid Yousuf and Qaiser Abbas, saw the Stallions reach their target of 144, with an over and seven wickets to spare. Though Rizwan Ahmed top-scored for the Hawks with 42, disciplined Sialkot bowling all round, restricted their final total, with Tahir Mughal picking up two for 22.
Fazl-e-Akbar, former Pakistan paceman and perennial domestic giant, took 3 for 9 as Peshawar Panthers thrashed the Islamabad Leopards by 65 runs to advance to the semi-finals. The Leopards were never in the chase for 147, as Umar Gul and Akbar reduced them to 31 for 5. Only Shoaib Akhtar, top-scoring with 14 took them to 81. Earlier, Shoaib had gone for over ten an over in return for a solitary wicket as middle-order forties from Riffatullah Mohmand and Wajahatullah Wasti saw the Panthers recover from an iffy start.
A 60-run partnership between Shadab Kabir and Fawad Alam took Karachi Dolphins home to a comfortable eight-wicket win over the tournament's weakest links, the Abbotabad Rhinos. Chasing only 114, both batsmen took advantage of a weak bowling attack, Kabir's 40 coming off 34 balls. Alam's 35 complemented a fine bowling performance earlier in the piece, his two key middle-order wickets, helping restrict the Rhinos. Shahid Afridi, captaining the Dolphins, continued his good leg-spinning form, picking up three wickets for 23 off his four overs.
Lahore Lions edged out the Rawalpindi Rams by only two runs in what turned out to be, comfortably, the day's most exciting game. A blazing fifty from Kamran Akmal, with six fours and six, set the Lions on their way to a healthy total. Mohammad Yousuf, who has taken runs from the best this year, could only make 19 here and it was left to a manic 28-ball 51 from Adnan Raza to lift the Lions to 178. The Rams began as if to finish the game in ten overs, and Babar Naeem and Mohammad Wasim brought the fifty up in only fourth over. Thereafter though, they lost wickets at regular, brief intervals with Imran Ali, Kashif Sadiq and Sulaman Qadir (off-spinning son of leg-spinning Abdul) picking up two wickets each. And despite some lusty hitting by Akhtar Ayub and Sohail Tanvir at the death, including a four off the last ball, the Rams fell just short.