RAWALPINDI: Wahab Riaz took five wickets while young wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Haris posted his maiden T20 half-century but their combined effort went in vain as Northern recorded a thrilling 11 runs over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 29th match of the National T20 Cup for First XI teams played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi on Friday afternoon.
Northern finished the league stage at the top of the six-team points table with 16 points from 10 matches (Eight wins, two defeats). They will play the fourth placed side in the first semi-final of the tournament tomorrow, their opponents will be determined at the end of the Southern Punjab-Balochistan clash tonight.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needed 21 runs in the final over which was bowled by the experienced Sohail Tanvir, they could only make nine runs.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started their 145-run chase positively as openers Fakhar Zaman and Haris added 48 runs in 7.2 overs. Fakhar was bowled by Musa Khan for 11. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain Mohammad Rizwan was dismissed by his opposite number Imad Wasim for nine. Imad took another big wicket when he sent back the experienced Shoaib Malik for six runs.
Iftikhar Ahmed was dismissed by pacer Haris Rauf for 10 runs. Musadiq Ahmed, Wahab Riaz and Asif Afridi also fell cheaply in the hunt of quick runs as the asking rate kept mounting for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Haris who represented Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup earlier this year scored a composed unbeaten 79 punctuated with nine fours and one six. The right-hander who was appearing in merely his third T20 match showed glimpses of his talent, pedigree and range of shots in his innings which held the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa innings together. Despite his heroic effort, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to get over the line.
Man-of-the-match Haris Rauf took three more wickets to take his tournament tally to 17 wickets, this was his third man-of-the-match award in the tournament, Imad took two wickets for 25 runs.
Reflecting on his performance, man-of-the-match Haris Rauf said: “I want to thank the Almighty first; throughout the event I have been able to bowl well. I was trying to bowl according to the pitches both in Multan and Rawalpindi and I am happy that I have been able to achieve sustained success. I tried to bowl some variations today as the pitch offered something to the bowlers. I hope to continue my bowling form in the coming games.”
Northern won the toss and opted to bat first. The decision backfired as Northern lost their first six wickets in 15.5 overs with only 99 runs on the board. Their in-form top order was sent packing early, Ali Imran (8), Zeeshan Malik (21) and Haider Ali (7) failed to impress. Wahab Riaz dismissed Imran and Haider in a fiery opening burst.
Wicketkeeper batsman Rohail Nazir also had a poor outing with the bat as he fell for six while birthday boy Umar Amin made 21 off 23 balls before falling to Asif Afridi.
Asif Ali was dismissed by Wahab for 19 off 22 balls (two fours). Imad played a captain’s innings at this stage to take his team to a competitive total. The left-hander hit six fours in his 36 that came off 20 balls.
Northern were restricted to 144 f0r nine in their 20 overs with Wahab returning brilliant figures of five for 21, this was the third five-wicket haul of the seasoned left-armer’s 261-match T20 career.