MULTAN: A record second-wicket partnership between Zeeshan Malik and Haider Ali orchestrated a 79-run win for Northern against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the opening match of the National T20 Cup First XI Tournament at the Multan Cricket Stadium here Wednesday. Northern were 24 for one after three overs when 19-year-old Haider, who made his Pakistan debut in the last of the three T20Is against England earlier this month, joined Zeeshan at the crease. The two batsmen added 180 runs in 14.1 overs that lifted the defending champions to 242 for three, the second highest score in a T20 innings in the history of the National T20 Cup, after Shadab Khan elected to bat first. Haider smashed five sixes and seven fours in his blazing 90 off 48 balls.
Reflecting on his performance, Haider told media: “It is always a great feeling to start off a tournament on a high and this innings has provided me a lot of confidence. Though I am a little disappointed on missing out what would have been my maiden century in T20 cricket, I thoroughly enjoyed the partnership with Zeeshan Malik. Our decision to bat first paid dividends as it allowed us to make the most of the true bounce on offer. My aim is to now build on this start and play a vital role in helping my side defend the title.”
Zeeshan, the 23-year-old right-handed batsman, smashed a 47-ball 77, which was studded with eight fours and three sixes, before Junaid Khan, who took two wickets for 44 runs in four overs, bowled him. Asif Ali struck three fours and a six in 10 balls during his 23 not out. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were dealt an early blow as Mohammad Nawaz, left-arm orthodox, bowled Fakhar Zaman on the fourth ball of the innings. By the first ball of the seventh over, they had lost their captain Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Hafeez, which reduced them to 46 for three. Problems amplified for them as Shoaib Malik fell in the 13th over after scoring a 19-ball 20, following which Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lost track of the run chase.
Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Nawaz took two wickets apiece for 34 and 37 runs, while Musa Khan dismissed Mohammad Mohsin (14 off 10), Shaheen Shah Afridi (0) and Usman Khan Shinwari (0) in the last over. At the end of the 20 overs, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were 163 for nine. They have a chance to avenge this defeat on 16 October when the two sides meet again at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi.