Haris Rauf's four-wicket burst cut a swathe though the Southern Punjab batting, as Northern recorded their sixth win in seven games to ensure a spot in the semi-final of the National T20 Cup.
For Southern Punjab, it was a tale of two extremes inside three days. They had pulled off a remarkable 217-run chase for a two-wicket win over Sindh on Friday, but stumbled to a five-run loss in this game when chasing a relatively modest 146 for victory. This was their fifth defeat in six games, leaving them at the bottom of the six-team table.
After eight overs of their chase, the scoreboard showed a sorry 30 for 3, and Rauf already had two wickets - openers Umar Siddiq and Shan Masood. Rauf bowled his four overs in separate spells, and picked up a wicket in each of them, ending with 4 for 23 and not letting Southern settle down at any stage.
Khushdil Shah, who hit the fastest T20 hundred by a Pakistani the other day, put up a resistance with 26 off 20 balls, with Zeeshan Ashraf, who played some inventive shots in his 20-ball 25, lifting the scoring rate during their fifth-wicket stand. After them, Aamer Yamin's enterprising 33 off 19 balls pushed the game into the final over, but with 15 to get, Southern only managed nine runs against Imad Wasim, who ended with 2 for 33.
Earlier, asked to bat, Northern's run rate was below five after the powerplay, and both their openers had been dismissed. But Sohail Akhtar (35 off 32) and Asif Ali (28 off 18) did the repair work, and though they were reeling at 101 for 6 in the 15th over, Imad's 26 not out in 18 balls took them to what proved to be a winning score.
Sarfaraz Ahmed's 44 off 28 balls helped Sindh chase down 174 to beat Balochistan by four wickets. His innings trumped Imam-ul-Haq's 92 off 60 balls, a knock for which was named Man of the Match. The victory kept Sindh's semi-final hopes alive, while Balochistan despite losing are still second and well placed to finish in the top four.
Sindh's chase got off to a shaky start as they lost Khurram Manzoor on the second ball of the innings. Sharjeel Khan (17) was the next man back in the hut followed by Asad Shafiq who struck 30 off 24 to keep the chase alive. Azam Khan's 27 off 14 helped matters, Sarfaraz's innings brought them closer and Hassan Khan gave the finishing touches with his 14-ball 28, taking the side home with five balls to spare.
Opting to field, Sindh's bowlers managed to keep Balochistan's run rate in check during the powerplay, conceding only one six and three boundaries in the period, with the wicket of man in form Awais Zia (17 off 13) the icing on the top. Thereafter, though, Imam took charge, putting on a 65-run partnership with 17-year-old Abdul Bangalzai (32 off 27). A nearly run-a-ball cameo by Harris Sohail (13 off 14) and a brisk late burst by Bismillah Khan (16 off 6) kept the scoreboard ticking over. Balochistan finished with 173 for 3, Sohail Khan, Anwar Ali and Hassan Khan taking a wicket each.