Sheikhupura, the winners of all their Pool B matches, have to face the tough challenge by Rawalpindi, as the two teams meet in the first semi-final of the One-day tournament (Associations), at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium. Rawalpindi finished the preliminary round as the second best team in Pool A. Karachi Whites, the winners of this Pool will clash with Karachi Blues in the second semi, to be played at National Stadium, Karachi.
Led by Test veteran Aaqib Javed, Sheikhupura have given an impressive performance in all their Pool matches, beating formidable opponents like Lahore and Karachi Blues by considerable margins.
Although Sheikhupura has performed like a well-knit unit, their victories haven't been devoid of some eye-catching individual performances. Imran Nazir has easily been the pick of their batsmen, scoring 294 runs off 188 balls in three matches played. After missing out the first two matches of the competition, the stylish right-hander started his campaign with a magnificent 148 off only 110 balls against Karachi Blues. He followed this up by a magnificent 102 off 63 balls against Sargodha and then went on to impose a 15-ball blitz of 44 on Lahore Blues in the last encounter.
Qaiser Abbas is another name that Rawalpindi will have to look out for. The left-handed all-rounder has been quite impressive with both bat and ball, scoring 141 runs, with the help of two fifties, and taking 9 wickets in five matches.
Rawalpindi, on the other hand, enjoy an 80% success rate in Pool A, where they were pitted against the likes of Karachi Whites and Lahore Whites. They have the likes of experienced Naved Ashraf along with all-rounders Naeem Akhtar and Yasir Arafat in their ranks.
The second match of the knockout stage is between the two teams hailing from Karachi, i.e., Whites and Blues.
Karachi Blues, who earned the semi-final berth after surpassing Faisalabad and Gujranwala on net run rate, boast of some very talented players in their side. Tariq Haroon, the opening batsmen, has already showed his class with two hundreds against his name. Skipper Mansoor Khan has been quite an inspiration for the side with both bat and ball. After scoring two fifties in the first two matches, he showed his bowling prowess by taking four wickets against Sargodha in the last Pool match.
Karachi Whites certainly look a lot stronger than their opponents, with Shahid Afridi, Hasan Raza and Saeed Bin Nasir all in excellent form. Moreover, they have turned out to be the only side to have beaten a hitherto unconquerable Rawalpindi in the last Pool match. And that wasn't a modest win by any standards.
After hammering 322 for 6 in 50 overs, which contained a superb 115 by Hasan Raza and a 28-ball 64 by the belligerent Afridi, Karachi Whites restricted Rawalpindi to 234 for 7 in their allotted overs, thus, winning the match by 88 runs.
The semi-finals, thus, promise a lot of thrill and excitement for cricket fans. Weather permits, there are chances of enough crowd presence in the two matches, which would decide the finalists of the tournament.