FAISALABAD: Punjab captain Shoaib Malik has pinned all his hopes on the bowlers as his side gears up to face Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in the Pakistan Cup final at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad today.
Punjab’s appearance in the final came as a surprise to many as fans and critics alike had written them off after Malik’s side had lost their opening two matches to Balochistan and K-P.
However, Punjab then recorded back-to-back wins over Islamabad and Sindh to secure their place in the final and captain Malik had nothing but praise for his bowlers, who spearheaded their attack in both games.
“After we lost the first two matches, our chances to make it to the final became extremely slim, but our players bounced back splendidly,” said Malik. “When we made the team we had hoped to rely on our batsmen. However, our bowlers proved us wrong. We made into the final because of our bowlers and they will be decisive in the final as well.”
Punjab opener Shan Masood, meanwhile, felt that his side were always favourites to reach the final but got unlucky in the first two matches. “We have been playing good cricket since the very first day but have been a bit unlucky. We lost to Balochistan by 12 runs, while K-P managed to beat us by two runs; we should have won that match. But our bowlers have been amazing since then and I’m glad to see us in the final. It’s the result of our hard work.”
While Punjab are relying on the performance of their bowling department, K-P captain Younus Khan, who has just been re-instated as the skipper after he opted to quit the tournament following some controversial umpiring decisions and was only allowed back in the domestic tournament after apologising to the Pakistan Cricket Board, is pinning his hopes on his batsmen.
“Our bowling and batting both are extremely good but our batsmen are performing better,” said Younus. “We are planning to post a high score and make Punjab chase because they are not good at chasing high targets.”
Asad Shafiq and Salman Butt are the top-scorers for Punjab in the tournament with 138 and 135 runs respectively, while Zulfiqar Babar with eight wickets is their highest wicket-taker — he is the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament behind Mohammad Amir, who has 11.
K-P, on the other hand, have tournament top-scorer Ahmad Shahzad in their ranks, who has scored 310 runs, while Ziaul Haq and Zohaib Khan, with eight wickets apiece, are K-P’s top wicket-takers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.