National T20: Central Punjab beat Balochistan by the skin of their teeth

Central Punjab’s run-chase was spearheaded by their captain Babar Azam who scored a typical 65 from 45 balls.

Web Desk
Saturday Sep 25, 2021
National T20: Central Punjab beat Balochistan by the skin of their teeth

Rawalpindi: Wahab Riaz upstaged a strokeful half-century by Babar Azam and Usman Qadir’s four-fer as Central Punjab stuttered to a two-wicket victory over 2019 runners-up Balochistan in the fourth match of the National T20.

Wahab followed up his two for 19 with a priceless 20 not out off eight balls with two sixes and a four to earn victory for the star-studded Central Punjab, which required 20 runs off the last 12 balls. Hasan Ali lent Wahab good support deep in the innings with a 16-ball 19 with two fours and six.

Central Punjab’s run-chase was spearheaded by their captain Babar Azam who scored a typical 65 from 45 balls. His entertaining and delightful innings was laced with eight fours and a six. The other Central Punjab batters to reach double figures was Muhammad Akhlaq (14).

Despite making a match out of a small total of 142, Balochistan were left ruing the missed opportunities. When Babar was eight, Akif Javed failed to hold on to a straightforward return catch, while in the critical stages of the innings, Junaid Khan bowled crucial no-balls that not only cost him the wickets but also resulted in easy runs for Central Punjab.

Central Punjab were equally responsible for making life difficult for themselves. After being 73 for two in 9.3 overs in pursuit of a 143-run target, they slipped to 120 for eight in 17 overs – thanks to a combination of poor shot selections and inspired bowing by Junaid (three for 41) and left-arm spinner Kashif Bhatti (two for 15).

However, it remains a mystery why Kashif was introduced in the 10th over and didn’t complete his quota of overs.

Earlier, electing to bat first, No.8 batter Umaid Asif gave some respect to Balochistan’s score when he clubbed three sixes and a four in an 18-ball 32 not out. This included 17 runs off the final over from Hasan, who finished wicketless and conceded 46 runs.

Umaid added 34 runs for the seventh wicket with Kashif, who contributed a run-a-ball 27 with two fours and two sixes.

The bowler to peg Balochistan down was wrist spinner Usman Qadir, who bowled intelligently and smartly to finish with figures of 4-0-25-4.

For Central Punjab, this was their sixth win in 17 National T20 matches since 2019-20, while for Balochistan, it was their 11 loss in 19 matches. While Friday’s victory helped Central Punjab bounce back from Thursday’s 36-run defeat against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was second successive defeat for Balochistan which had suffered a six-wicket defeat against Northern on the opening day.