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Ali Imran, Zeeshan Malik half-centuries steer Northern into National T20 Cup semi-final

Imam, Shafique fifties not enough for Balochistan; Sahibzada, Iftikhar century stand took Khyber Pakhtunkhwa past Sindh

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Imam-ul-Haq starts steadily as Pakistan embark in pursuit of the impossible, Bangladesh v Pakistan, World Cup 2019, Lord's, July 5, 2019

File photo - Captain Imam-ul-Haq's 50 was in vain for Balochistan  •  Getty Images

Northern 186 for 5 (Imran 64, Malik 53, Asif 2-31, Butt 2-35) beat Balochistan 185 for 7 (Shafique 73, Imam 50, Zaman 3-31) by five wickets
Fifties from Ali Imran and Zeeshan Malik helped Northern pull off a nervy chase of 186 against Balochistan in Lahore and qualify for the semi-final of the National T20 Cup. The momentum swung between both teams in the last five overs as Northern slumped to 171 for 5 from 148 for 1 in the space of three overs. However, with 15 runs needed off the final over, Rohail Nazir smothered Junaid Khan for a four first ball and then Sohail Tanvir hit a four and the winning six to seal the chase with one ball to spare.
Northern rose to the top of the table with 12 points from nine matches, while Balochistan are placed fifth with six points from eight matches.
In response to Balochistan's 185 for 7, Northern got off to a brisk start, courtesy Nasir Nawaz's 21-ball 30 and Imran's 64 off 45 balls. The openers put on 60 in 6.4 overs before Kashif Bhatti removed Nawaz. Coming in at No. 3, Malik built on the impetus the opening stand provided, hitting a 35-ball 53. He also shared an 88-run stand with Imran for the second wicket. Umaid Asif and Amad Butt pulled the game back for Balochistan to some degree, picking up two wickets apiece. However, Tanvir (10* off 4) and wicketkeeper-batter Nazir (10* off 5) made sure Northern emerged victorious.
Earlier, Abdullah Shafique and captain Imam-ul-Haq hit fifties each to guide Balochistan to a competitive total. While Shafique top-scored with 73 off 44 balls, Imam hit his second half-century in as many innings.
For Northern, Zaman Khan was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3 for 31 while Tanvir, Muhammad Musa, Aamer Jamal, and Nauman Ali picked a wicket each.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 154 for 3 (Farhan 54*, Iftikhar 49*) beat Sindh 152 for 6 (Masood 54, Iftikhar 2-25) by seven wickets
Iftikhar Ahmed hit a 37-ball 49 and Sahibzada Farhan scored a 33-ball 54 to power Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with an unbeaten century stand to thump Sindh by seven wickets in Lahore. Both teams, on ten points, have confirmed their semifinal spots.
Batting first, Sharjeel Khan was a shadow of his batting form compared to his overnight century against South Punjab. His 26 runs came at a strike-rate of 96.29. Shan Masood, who had been struggling to find runs, made a crucial 54 off 37 balls. Saud Shakeel, Ahsan Ali and Danish Aziz together added 18 in 18 balls.
Sindh entered the game having without regular captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, who linked up with the national T20 squad after being picked for the World Cup. Anwar Ali led instead. He smacked three sixes in his 27-ball 34 runs cameo to propel the total to 152. Iftikhar also took two wickets.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made a brisk start, but lost three batters for 54 in 6.4 overs, as Aamer Azmat (18 off 17) and Musadiq Ahmed (23 off 12) went back in quick succession. But both Farhan and Iftikhar stood tall to finish off the game without any further damage.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent