Shan Masood, bowlers power Southern Punjab into final
Masood scored an unbeaten 78 to end Northern's defence of the National T20 Cup, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa joined them in the final
Southern Punjab followed up their sensational win against Balochistan with a thumping win over defending champions Northern to stride into the National T20 Cup final.
Chasing 161, one fewer than they did with 56 balls to spare in their last game, Shan Masood's side was much more businesslike, the captain top-scoring with an unbeaten 78 in 58 balls and knocking off the winning runs with eight balls and seven wickets to spare. Masood and Zeeshan Ashraf - whose swashbuckling 55 off 32 kept the asking rate down - shared a 91-run opening partnership, which broke the back of the chase. From thereon, it was something of a procession, with the final single coming from a dab down to third man.
The usually free-scoring Northern were kept on a leash by the rejuvenated Southern Punjab bowling attack, who, after conceding 200-plus in seven of their first eight games, have kept sides below 165 in the preceding three. That was possible thanks to a disciplined start by Aamer Yamin and the ever-reliable Mohammad Abbas. Though Ali Imran scored a half-century, there was no real support for him from the other end. Zahid Mahmood removed three big-hitters in Haider Ali, Asif Ali and Imad Wasim, and only a late flurry from Shadab Khan, who smashed an unbeaten 48 off 27, took Northern past 160. But against a batting line-up as high on confidence as Southern Punjab, it proved something of a cakewalk.
Blistering half-centuries from Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Rizwan helped Khyber Pakhtumkhwa thrash Sindh heavily to take their side through to the final. The duo shared a 113-run opening partnership to set up an emphatic eight-wicket triumph, achieved with over 5 overs to spare.
KP was solid in the chase right from the start, making 66 in the Powerplay to get off to a flying start. Zaman hammered 57 off 29 balls before edging off Danish Aziz behind the wickets, while Rizwan made a crisp 67 off 50. By the time they fell, the ask was relatively straightforward, and the experienced duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik led the side home with no further drama.
Earlier in the evening, KP's decision to bowl first brought instant results as they left Sindh reeling at 10 for three inside three overs. Neither Sharjeel Khan and Azam Khan, two power hitters Sindh will have relied on, could make an impression; both were dismissed without scoring. Khurram Manzoor (74 off 57) and Danish Aziz (39 off 27) were the only batsmen who resisted, propelling their side past 140 with an 80-run sixth wicket stand. But Shaheen Afridi, Imran Khan and Usman Shinwari had done enough to make the task for their batting colleagues relatively straightforward.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000