Friday Oct 09, 2020
Bolstered by the arrival of their superstar batsman and captain Babar Azam, laggards Central Punjab on Friday caused the biggest upset of the National T20 Cup, defeating the previously unbeaten Northern by eight wickets in the first match of the Rawalpindi leg of the tournament.
Having won the toss and elected to bat first, Northern’s innings got off to a bad start for once as neither of their top-four really got going. Lahore Qalandars captain Sohail Akhtar, drafted in place of Haider Ali, was playing his first match of the tournament and his rustiness showed as he only scored 17 off 16 balls.
For the Punjab side, all-rounder Faheem Ashraf (4-18) was the star as he picked three of those four top-order wickets.
Northern captain Shadab Khan (39) and Asif Ali (67) did strike a decent 87-run partnership for the fifth wicket but leg-spinner Usman Qadir dismissed both on back-to-back 16th over deliveries, after which the tail did not do much, eventually finishing with 165-9.
The target was just too little to bother Central Punjab, whose new opening pairing of Kamran Akmal and Azam provided a 54-run stand.
The young Abdullah Shafique, another one of Multan leg’s standouts, suffered a rare failure, contributing just three off five balls.
Ashraf, the hero with the ball in the first half, walked in. He and Azam put on a show, helping Central Punjab canter to the finish line.
Azam finished with a 52-ball 86 in what was his first match of the tournament, whereas Ashraf made his presence felt with a 26-ball 52, which only embellished his work done with the ball earlier.