Pakistan might not consider them good enough for ODI cricket, but Karachi Zebras clearly hold Danish Kaneria and Asim Kamal in higher regard. Or at least they should, after both helped them to a comfortable 52-run triumph over Hyderabad Hawks in the opening game of the Twenty20 cup in Karachi. Kamal struck a boundary-happy 49, off 30 balls as opener, and helped by another Pakistan reject, Hasan Raza with a sedate 43, a target of 150 was set. The Hawks were never in it, stumbling to 97 for 9 as Kaneria continued impressive domestic form with 3 for 13 off four overs.
Ashfaq Ahmed's blistering 27-ball 50 was complemented by Junaid Zia and Mohammad Khalil's pace, as Lahore Eagles trod all over Abbottabad Rhinos. Ahmed, who struck five boundaries and two sixes, was assisted by Aamer Sajjad's less manic 49, useful middle-order contributions taking them to 170 for 6. The reply lasted just over 17 overs, Zia, hitherto the most infamous case of nepotism in Pakistan cricket, and the left-armer Khalil ended with identical figures of 3 for 15. So poor was the batting, even Imran Farhat's leg-spinners picked up two wickets.
Khalid Latif, the former Under-19 World Cup winning captain, spanked an exhilarating 72 as Karachi Dolphins edged out Faisalabad Wolves in a thrilling battle of the local heavyweights by two runs. Latif's 47-ball knock was special, but Naumanullah's 55, off only 32 deliveries, wasn't far behind as the Dolphins reached 171 for 4. Shahid Afridi, leading the Dolphins, made only three but then pulled out his cunning legspin all-sorts, his 2 for 29 pegging back the Wolves progress. Despite contributions from Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Ali and Misbah-ul-Haq, with 53 off 33 balls, the Wolves fell just short. Both teams though fancy their chances this year; the Wolves were the first winners of the tournament and runners-up last year while the Dolphins made the semi-finals last year.
Left-arm spinners are basking at renewed recognition in Pakistan. Aslam Qureshi furthered the cause of his kind, a middle overs hat-trick helping Peshawar Panthers to an easy five-wicket win over a spirited Multan Tigers. Batting first, the Tigers were on course for a tall score, until Qureshi struck and changed the complexion of the innings. The feat was only the sixth in Twenty20 competitions around the world and second in Pakistan. The Tigers were bowled out for a disappointing 124, pegged back by Qureshi, who took 4 for 13, well supported by Umar Gul and Fayyaz Khan, who took two each. Though they gamely snaffled regular wickets, scores from Yasir Hameed and Raffatullah Mohmand meant it was ever enough. Captain Younis Khan, who received a rockstar welcome to the crease, applause, cheers, an announcement and music mixing effortlessly, completed the job with a smart, unbeaten 30.