The Faysal Bank National Twenty 20 Cup commenced in great fashion yesterday, producing exhilarating cricket, an upset and some controversy over poor television scheduling.
The event kicked off with newcomers Bahawalpur Stags stunning Rawalpindi Rams by 19 runs in their opening fixture at the Bagh-e-Jinnah ground in Lahore. Stags accumulated 173 for five after a brisk 53-ball 89 by Imranullah Aslam, in which he struck two sixes and a dozen boundaries. In reply, Rams could only manage 154 for nine. Kashif Siddiq claimed three wickets, while Ataullah dismissed two.
Normal service resumed for Shahid Afridi who struck a half-century to help his side Karachi Dolphins to an easy 40-run victory against Peshawar Panthers at the LCCA ground. Desperate to regain his form, Afridi smashed 50 off 38 balls to guide Dolphins to 164 for seven, while Shahzaib Hasan (33) and Anwar Ali (27) chipped in with valuable knocks. Panthers were dismissed for 124 in 19.2 overs despite opener Iftikhar Ahmed’s 57-run knock.
National stars blacked out by poor tv scheduling
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) and the sponsor’s poor planning was on show when the first televised match of the day – Quetta Bears versus Multan Tigers – turned out to be an ordinary affair. Scheduling was criticised by both viewers and experts as the board decided to keep out star-studded teams Dolphins and Stallions outside Gaddafi Stadium. Tigers defeated Bears by ten wickets as they chased down the target of 72 comfortably.
Elsewhere, away from the cameras once again, Imran Nazir top-scored with 65 while Umaid Asif picked up three wicket as Sialkot Stallions thrashed Islamabad Leopards by eight wickets. Leopards were restricted to 122 for eight before Stallions raced past it thanks to Nazir’s innings in which he struck a six and 10 fours.
In another match, Imran Farhat’s timely, unbeaten 100 gave Lahore Eagles a 58-run win against Hyderabad Hawks, who failed despite Sharjeel Khan’s whirlwind knock of 103. Set a mammoth target of 225, Hawks ended their innings on 166 for five as Junaid Zia and Asif Raza took two wickets apiece.
Playing for Lahore Lions, Mohammad Hafeez starred with bat and ball to help his side defeat Karachi Zebras by seven wickets.
Hafeez surprisingly captained Lions instead of Mohammad Yousuf, who was originally named as the skipper. Set a target of 142, Hafeez made 53 while Umar Akmal scored 43 as Lions were home with 144 for three in 18.1 overs. Earlier, Zebras managed 141 for six.
Sharjeel Khan —Hyderabad Hawks
Sharjeel Khan hammered an unbeaten 103 off 66 balls for Hyderabad Hawks, clubbing eight sixes and five boundaries, but failed to guide them to victory against Lahore Lions in their opening match of the event.
The 23-year-old left-hander, who plays for ZTBL and Hyderabad, has been on the radars of selectors for a long time because of his big hitting. And he proved just why despite being under pressure faced with the daunting task of chasing 225.
“I’ve realised that if I stay out there on the pitch, I can easily rip apart any opposition,” Sharjeel told The Express Tribune. “My aim was to bat out till the end against Eagles to help my team get close to their total but unluckily I couldn’t get support. I’ve got a great start to the tournament. My target is to end it as the best batsman.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2012.