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Central Punjab lose despite Babar Azam's 86; Awais Zia's 49-ball 92* outshines Shoaib Malik's heroics

Sindh chased down 170 against Central Punjab, while Balochistan crushed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by six wickets

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Shoaib Malik shapes up for a big hit, Balochistan vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, National T20 Cup, Rawalpindi, October 10, 2020

Shoaib Malik shapes up for a big hit  •  PCB

In a clash close to the top of the table, Balochistan avenged their crushing defeat against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last week by inflicting a similar loss on Mohammad Rizwan's side. Awais Zia's unbeaten 49-ball 92 helped Balochistan make short work of the 155-run target, which they achieved with six wickets and 20 balls to spare. After Shaheen Afridi removed Abdul Bangalzai for a first-ball duck and Bismillah Khan in his second over, Zia took charge of the chase single-handedly. Brushing aside the further losses of Imran Butt and his skipper Haris Sohail, Zia farmed the strike with Akbar-ur-Rehman at the other end, who played his part, finishing unbeaten on 24 and hitting the winning runs.
After winning the toss, Balochistan had put KP in and removed both in-form players Mohammad Hafeez and Rizwan cheaply. Fakhar Zaman struggled to get going in the face of tight bowling, particularly by Akif Javed and Khurram Shehzad, whose combined figures of 8-0-40-3 a tell-tale sign of KP's struggles with the bat.
It was left to veteran Shoaib Malik to take them to a competitive total, as he rolled back the years to wallop 74 off 44 balls to help his side get past 150. But support from the other end wasn't forthcoming, of which they eventually paid the price.
In the evening game, it was a case of copy and paste for Babar Azam, who followed up yesterday's 52-ball 86 not out with a 53-ball 86, but it wasn't enough to prevent Central Punjab from slumping to a three-wicket defeat at Sindh's hands. Chasing 170 and having lost their top four cheaply, Sindh dug in and benefitted from lower-middle-order contributions from Danish Aziz, who top-scored with an unbeaten 59, and Azam Khan. But when it looked like the asking rate might prove too steep, it was a blitz from Hassan Khan, who smashed 36 off 15 with four sixes, that powered Sindh past the finish line. That was despite the best efforts of Waqas Maqsood, whose figures of 3.1-0-14-3 might easily have been worthy of ending up on the winning side.
After being asked to bat, Central Punjab were immediately set back by Sohail Khan removing Kamran Akmal in the first over. The Sindh fast bowler was the pick of the bunch, returning to get rid of Azam in the 15th over, as well as Saad Nasim to finish his spell. For Central Punjab, there were few contributors besides Azam, who was responsible for more than half of his side's runs. Sindh's team effort in the chase suggested that might have been an important point of difference.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000