Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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Balochistan missed out on a chance to seal qualification to the last four, falling to a 39-run defeat against Northern. Sitting on eight points, they had a chance to put both Central and Southern Punjab out of the tournament with a win but will now have to wait until their final game for another shot at the last four.
Haider Ali's 50-ball 86 meant they were set exactly 200 to chase. The opener set up a 92-run partnership with Ali Imran, whose 22-ball 41 got them off to a flying start; Northern brought up the 100 before the 10th over was complete. Haider looked set for a hundred before Akhtar Shah trapped him in front. It was a rare moment of joy for the bowler, who would otherwise be clobbered for 40 in the three overs he bowled. Haris Sohail and Amad Butt put the brakes on with a couple of cheap middle order wickets, but Shadab Khan was around to inject some momentum at the death, striking a breezy 42 off 27 to set Balochistan a stiff target.
Balochistan appeared well on track for the chase in the first powerplay, staying abreast of the run rate without losing a wicket. Awais Zia and Imam-ul-Haq put up a 69-run opening stand off just 44 balls, but things began to unravel when Imam was run out to give Northern a breakthrough. Shadab removed Zia and Bismillah Khan off consecutive balls; his figures of 3-0-13-2 were the catalyst for Northern's win. So the wickets began to tumble, the run rate soared. Just one batsman, Sohail, crossed 15 in the innings thereafter, and Balochistan crawled to 160, long out of the game by the time the final ball had been bowled.
Southern Punjab kept their hopes of a semi-final spot alive with a resounding 70-run win over Sindh. Shan Masood's side recovered from losing three wickets for eight runs thanks to a scintillating 121-run partnership between Sohaib Maqsood and Khushdil Shah, who both scored quickfire half-centuries to steer their side towards a big total. Not afraid to counter-attack from the outset, they ensured Hassan Khan, who was smashed for 23 in one over, and Anwar Ali - who leaked 59 in four - came in for particular punishment as Southern Punjab posted 191 for 6.
Having conceded at least 200 runs in seven of their previous eight matches, Southern Punjab were by no means guaranteed to defend what they had put up, but Sindh were never really in it. Khurram Manzoor's 49 off 35 was the closest thing equalling resistance for the already qualified side, and Mohammad Abbas' early removal of Sharjeel Khan set the tone for the chase. None of their other big hitters fired either, with Azam Khan and Danish Aziz falling cheaply, and soon, the only point of interest was how much Southern Punjab would improve their net run rate.
Sindh were bowled out inside 17 overs, which means the last semi-final spot comes down, somewhat, to a showdown between Balochistan and Southern Punjab Friday. With Central Punjab also on eight points, the chance of a three-way tie in case Southern Punjab win sets up a dramatic final day of the league stage.