KARACHI: Peshawar Panthers were crowned the new national Twenty20 champions in the Haier T20 Cup on Sunday as they beat defending champions Lahore Lions by seven wickets in the final at the National Stadium in Karachi.
Lions, who opted to bat first, were kept silent by Panthers’ bowlers Taj Wali and Imran Khan in the first six overs. Imamul Haq scored an unbeaten 52 off 41 balls but saw all other players taking the long walk back to the dug-out. Abid Ali (22) and captain Azhar Ali (16) were able to make small contributions, while all other batsmen were not able to enter double figures except Tanzeel Altaf who scored 11 runs off eight balls.
Panthers chase with the poise of champions
Panthers walked in determined and played shots with sheer confidence.
Both openers, Rafatullah Mohmand and Israrullah played fearlessly and scored boundaries with ease. Israrullah departed in the fourth over with 20 runs off 14 balls when Qaiser Ashraf caught him LBW.
In the next over, Rafatullah was given LBW off Mohammad Irfan’s bowling after he scored 26 runs off 13 deliveries courtesy four boundaries and one maximum.
Iftikhar with an unbeaten 50 runs off 44 balls and Adil Amin with his 33 off 43 deliveries then made sure that Panthers reached home safely. Adil left the wicket in the 19th over after being bowled by Mohammad Irfan but the damage had already been done and Peshawar were hailed champions for the very first time.
Peshawar captain Zohaib Khan credited the title to the team’s effort acknowledging that all the individuals played their part in the win.
“We had a very good combination,” a satisfied Zohaib said while talking to The Express Tribune. “The team played with unity, which was the key to our victory. I feel honoured to captain this side and the confidence the Peshawar Association vested in me is overwhelming.
“I can’t be more happy or proud because I think my team carried me all the way through to the final. I didn’t do much other than keeping the team as one.”
Panthers’ team manager Rozomin Khan said: “I am team’s manager since five years and we have reached here after a very hard work. We have practiced for a week before the tournament and the boys played with a winning mind set throughout the tournament which led us to this big victory.
“We are proud to produce such players like Imran Khan, Imran Khan Junior, Rafatullah Mohmand, Israrullah and Muhammad Rizwan and other players as well.”
Imran Khan Jr bagged the best bowler award and said he has used all his learnt skills to win this tournament.
“I read the body language and attitude of the batsmen and bowled accordingly, I am glad that I have made my region proud,” said the 26-year-old.
Kamran Akmal bagged the best player of the tournament award, Mukhtar Ahmed was named the best all-rounder of the event while Muhamma Fayaz was given the best fielder award.
Lahore captain Azhar Ali said they fell just a little short of defending their title.
“We scored 20-25 runs less,” said Azhar. “We missed some important chances. Out batsman and bowlers should have performed better. But all the credit goes to Peshawar as they played very good cricket throughout the tournament.”