Shoaib Malik, Shaheen Afridi seal National T20 Cup title for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa




The victorious Khyber Pakhtunkhwa side © PCB

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa edged out Southern Punjab by ten runs in the final to lift the National T20 Cup. Put in to bat first, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s openers – Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Rizwan – put up a 76-run partnership, with Zaman’s 40-ball 67 leading the way. When Rizwan fell, Mohammad Hafeez (38 off 26) took over and helped set up an ideal platform for the death overs, where Shoaib Malik rolled back the years and the smashed the fastest fifty of his T20 career, off just 20 balls, to take the side past 200.

In the end, it might have been a scoreline that read slightly harshly on Aamer Yamin, Zahid Mahmood, and Mohammad Imran, who took a wicket each and created plenty of chances, but sloppiness in the field cost Southern Punjab. Shan Masood’s side put down no fewer than five catches – three benefitted Mohammad Hafeez alone. It was generosity they could ill-afford to extend to a side as good as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and if they were to win the title, they’d have to chase 207.

They didn’t get off to the best start, with Shaheen Afridi getting rid of Shan Masood early. It wasn’t the only damage the tournament’s leading wicket-taker inflicted; he removed Sohaib Maqsood off the next delivery to deal a huge blow to Southern Punjab’s chances. Zeeshan Ashraf’s 16 off 19 came to an end when he offered a regulation catch to extra cover off Wahab Riaz, who snared him off his second ball of the evening. With Southern Punjab 34 for 3 in 5.2 overs, Hussain Talat and Khushdil Shah were left with what seemed like an insurmountable task.

Both shared a fighting stand to keep the case alive and put up 74 for the fourth wicket before Usman Shinwari removed Shah. A remarkable diving catch on the boundary by Malik sent Talat back. He had smashed a spirited 33-ball 63, but it wasn’t enough, with Southern Punjab needing a further 76 from 34 balls when he departed. That was never a realistic prospect, with the asking rate always just out of reach, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wrapped up a deserved win with relative ease by the end.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent


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