Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
Date: Wednesday, October 13
The Pakistani National T20 Cup has reached its final with a battle between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Central Punjab set to be played on Wednesday in Lahore. This is the climax to an incredibly close competition, with all four semi-finalists – the two teams in the final plus Sindh and Northern – all finishing on 12 points with six wins and four defeats from their 10 games. The way the table finished meant that Southern Punjab in fifth and Balochistan in sixth (and last) each finished with three wins and seven defeats, testament to the competitiveness of the league this season.
Yesterday’s semi-finals say first placed KP take on fourth-placed Northern and second-placed Central Punjab face Sindh. In the first game, KP won the toss and elected to field as Northern put up 156/8 in their 20 overs. It was a total that it took KP almost their entire innings to run down, finally hitting the mark at 19.1 overs as they crossed the line at 161/5, winning by five wickets. Sahibzada Farhan was the key player in the innings as he hit a lively 53 from 39 balls.
The second semi-final saw Central Punjab win the toss and elect to take the field. They held Sindh to 141/8 from their 20 overs with Qasim Akran working his magic with the ball as he took 3/15 from his four overs. The total proved an easy one for Central Punjab to run down and they never looked in trouble of not winning the match. They won by seven wickets after 17.5 overs behind 51 from Kamran Akmal.
It is unlikely that we will see changes from KP for this one as they will be putting out their very best team in the final. They will look to once again ride the batting of Farhan – he is the leading runs getter in the entire tournament – and they need him to be up in the 50 range once against to give them a platform to work on with the ball. Kamran Ghulam will also be important – he scored 35 in the semi-final – has provides a good anchor alongside Farhan.
Central Punjab will look to start better in the final than the semi as they managed to avoid the potentially crushing blow of losing Mohammad Akhlaq in the second over by playing some fantastic cricket. Akmal was the star, but Ahmed Shehzad hit 49 off of 46, continually ticking over the scoring and making sure that CP was never going to be behind the eight ball in their run chase. Their spin attack from Akram and Zafar Gohar – who also conceded just 15 runs and picked up a pair of wickets – is more than dangerous enough to trouble defending champions KP in this one.
Central Punjab is the favorite here and with the way that they took care of business in such a methodic fashion in their semi-final it is easy to see why. KP will be throwing everything at this – all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed slogged 45 from just 17 balls in the semi-final to show his form – but their bowling is a worry against a Central Punjab attack that knows how to not concede runs. I like the favorites in this one at 6/10 with BetXchange.