Multan and Sialkot set up semis clash
Multan Tigers sealed a place in the semi-finals, cruising to their fourth straight win in the competition, beating Peshawar Panthers comfortably by five wickets in Karachi. Gulzar Sadaf, who smashed 103, and Kashif Naved, with his attacking, unbeaten 73, were the stars, enabling their team to overhaul a challenging target of 251 with almost nines overs to spare. Peshawar, in their innings, had been helped by half-centuries from Haroon Ahmed (67) and Azam Jan (50) but Mohammad Hafeez's three-for, backed up by two-wicket spells from Kashif Naved and Faisal Elahi restricted them to what turned out to be an inadequate score. Multan will take on Sialkot Stallions, the table-toppers from Group C, in the first semi-final at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on February 21.
Karachi Dolphins upstaged Hyderabad Hawks at the National Stadium by 45 runs to finish second in the points table for Group A. As a result, they missed out on a place in the knockout phase while Hyderabad were consigned to the bottom place. Karachi, after opting to bat, were given a solid start by their openers Adnan Baig and Ali Asad, who added 109. They were then boosted by Sheharyar Ghani, who smashed four fours and as many sixes in his 86 but a collapse ensued. Kashif Batti and Lal Kumar shared seven wickets, as Karachi lost seven for 75 though still managing a competitive 275. Hyderabad, despite a determined 109 from opener Aqeel Anjum, faltered in their reply, failing to measure up to Azam Hussain's 4 for 35 to be bowled out for 230.
In a high-scoring contest at the Gaddafi Stadium, National Bank of Pakistan chased 311 in the final over to qualify for the semi-finals and set up a knockout clash against Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited. They beat Karachi Zebras by two wickets in a thrilling game, thanks to Sarmad Bhatti's aggressive, unbeaten 36-ball 45 which followed contributions of 87 from Salman Butt and 52 from Omer Amin. Karachi would have thought they had enough after Akbar-ur-Rehman scored a 112-ball 126, backed up by important contributions from the middle order, but their bowlers, despite trying hard, were unable to measure up to the NBP onslaught.
Khan Research Laboratories prevailed over Habib Bank Limited in a closely-fought encounter in Rawalpindi, winning by 19 runs. They finished second on the points table in Group B, thereby missing out on a place in the semis. Their opponents ended third. KRL, after opting to bat, were aided by important contributions from their top and middle orders. Zahoor Elahi top scored with 60 and was supported by Bazid Khan (39) and Ali Khan (45). However, KRL slipped to 237 all out, losing their last seven wickets for 73 runs as Kamran Hussain and Mohammad Aslam bagged three wickets each. But HBL started poorly in their reply, losing their five for 81 before the lower order, led by Danish Kaneria's fiery 64, gave them a chance. But Yasir Ali's three-for and Saeed Anwar jnr's haul of 3 for 41, which included wickets at the death, stopped HBL short.
Though this game was of no consequence for the knockout stage, it proved a thorough entertainer. A blistering 142 from opener Irfan Zaman, backed up by two pivotal lower-order stands involving Mohammad Naeem steered Lahore Eagles to a one-wicket win over Sui Southern Gas Corporation at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground. Chasing 294, Lahore were tottering at 67 for 4 but Zaman, who smashed 14 fours and five sixes, added 144 for the fifth wicket with Mohammad Saeed (49) to revive the innings. However, the next three wickets fell for just one run, swinging the game SSGC's way. But there lay another twist, as Naeem batted patiently with the attacking Emmad Ali, who, at No.10, smacked 41 in 28, to put Lahore back in contention before being dismissed. Last man Hasan Dar gave Naeem invaluable company, as the pair added 15 to seal victory with three balls to spare. SSGC's own innings had been buoyed by a 187-run opening stand between Asif Zakir (87) and Azeem Ghumman (133), but there was little support from the rest. Mohammad Irshad grabbed five wickets to keep the total down to 293, which his batsmen overcame.
It was Faisalabad Wolves who handed Sialkot Stallions their first defeat of the tournament at the Iqbal Stadium. Choosing to bat, Fasialabad were lifted by half-centuries from Shahid Siddique, Zeeshan Asif and Mohammad Salman. Even though Bilawal Bhatti took four wickets, he couldn't prevent Faisalabad from getting to 287 for 9. While Adeel Malik tried to provide some impetus to the Sialkot next up with a near run-a-ball 70, they were outdone by offspinner Hasan Mahmood's 3 for 31, and eventually finished on 226 for 9. Sialkot though, still nosed ahead via net run-rate to keep Rawalpindi away from a semi-final spot.
Rawalpindi Rams looked to have improved their semi-final chances with a six-wicket win against bottom-placed Abbottabad Rhinos in Sargodha. Batting first, Abbottabad were jolted by left-arm fast bowler Sadaf Hussain's early strikes. However, a 101-run partnership between Mohammad Kashif (78 not out) and Khalid Usman (47) pushed them to 233 for 9. Even as opener Naved Malik departed for a duck during the chase, eighties from Zahid Mansoor and Babar Naeem strengthened Rawalpindi. The 142-run stand for the second wicket ensured a safe passage to victory, which arrived in the 42nd over.
Lahore Lions rose in the standings after defeating Islamabad Leopards by 30 runs at the Diamond Club Ground. There were no standout performers in Lahore's batting card, but a combined effort meant they finished on a competitive 252. Islamabad captain Raheel Majeed looked in charge during the reply with a quick 73 at the top of the order, but from 123 for 2, things started to go downhill as legspinner Saad Nasim weaved his magic. Nasim finished with 4 for 35 as Islamabad were cleaned up in 47.4 overs.
Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) entered the semi-finals in style with a 59-run win against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) at the Multan Stadium. Put in by the opposition, SNGPL were led by Misbah-ul-Haq who remained unbeaten on 101 off 102 balls, comprising seven fours and three sixes. Raza Ali Dar and Khurram Shahzad weighed in with half-centuries as SNGPL finished on 294. Opener Jahangir Mirza starred for WAPDA during the chase with a composed 88, but a disciplined bowling effort meant SNGPL kept their unbeaten record intact.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) who would have been tuned in to proceedings at Multan put in a convincing display against Zarai Tarqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) at the Bahawalpur Stadium. Fifties from opener Khurram Manzoor and Anwar Ali were the highlights of the PIA innings, as they reached 279 for 9. ZTBL never looked like overhauling the target and Jan Nisar Khan's five-for resulted in an early end, by the 43rd over, with ZTBL 70 runs short.