Pakistan Cup – an event full of tense finishes, runs, wickets and boundaries

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KARACHI (City News) – The High Performance department successfully delivered another complete and exciting tournament in the challenging Covid-19 period when the 33-match Pakistan Cup One-Day Tournament 2020-21 concluded here in Karachi.

After Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Central Punjab had shared the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy earlier last month following the first-ever tied final in Pakistan first-class history, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa defeated Central Punjab by seven wickets in the 50-over final at the State Bank Stadium to add to the National T20 Cup to their collection. In the National T20 Cup final on 18 October, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had defeated Southern Punjab by 10 runs.

For former Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, it was a dream start to his coaching career as his side featured in finals of all the three formats. However, Sindh took the honours of sweeping both the National U19 One-Day and Three-Day Tournaments as the High Performance department ensured the Pakistan Cricket Board became the first cricket federation to overcome the Covid-19 challenges by successfully delivering eight competitions.

The final tournament of the domestic season – the PCB National U16 One-Day Tournament – will be held in Rawalpindi from 13-23 February.

To date, the High Performance department has delivered 204 matches in eight competitions – First and Second XIs National T20 Cup, three-day and first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, First and Second XIs Pakistan Cup and the National U19 One-Day and Three-Day Tournaments. Off these eight events, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Pakistan Cup were held in Karachi, the U19 matches were shared between Lahore, Islamabad, Muridke, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, First XI National T20 Cup matches were played in Multan and Rawalpindi, while Lahore was the venue for the Second XI National T20 Cup.

With the 15-match Pepsi-PCB National U16 One-Day Tournament still to be played, already 204 matches have been delivered since the season commenced on 30 September, which is 49 matches more than what were delivered in the 2019-20. In the 2019-20 season, 153 matches in seven tournaments were played and the only event affected by the Covid-19 outbreak was the Pakistan Cup.

In between, the PCB also staged white-ball matches against Zimbabwe (all in Rawalpindi), a Test against South Africa and remaining four HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 fixtures (all in Karachi).

The Pakistan Cup, powered by Service Tyres, lived up to its expectations of providing thrilling and entertaining cricket while maintaining a high standard throughout the competition.

In the 33-match tournament, a total of 17,783 runs were scored for the loss of 498 wickets with the help of 460 sixes and 1,538 fours. This meant the average match aggregate remained at an impressive 538, while average first innings totals remained at 278.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were involved in two highest match aggregate matches. In the 12 January match, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chased down a 378-run target with two wickets to spare, while two weeks late, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made it two out of two against Balochistan by successfully defending 370 for nine to win by 23 runs. The first match saw 755 runs being scored at a whopping run-rate of 7.5, while 717 runs were scored in the second fixture at an impressive run-rate of 7.3.

Interestingly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was also involved in the match that produced the lowest match aggregate. Two days after featuring in a 755-run match, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa routed Northern for 112 and then achieved victory for the loss of six wickets. This match produced 225 runs in 59.5 overs at an average of 3.7.

A total of 29 centuries were scored in the 23-day competition with Sindh’s Khurram Manzoor and Sahibzada Farhan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hitting three hundreds each. However, Central Punjab’s Tayyab Tahir finished as the most consistent and successful batsman of the tournament when he scored 666 runs in 12 matches with one century and six half-centuries.

Other batsmen to entertain the fans and followers with their batting included Khurram Manzoor (655 runs), Southern Punjab’s Mukhtar Ahmed (597 runs), Balochistan’s Imran Farhat (499 runs), Sahibzada Farhan (487 runs) and Test opener Shan Masood, whose 472 runs came in only five matches with two centuries and as many half-centuries.

Sohaib Maqsood’s 130 included maximum number of sixes in an innings – 10 – while Asif Ali’s 127 included 98 runs in boundaries (17×4, 5×6). Sahibzada Farhan’s 155 (135b, 15×4, 3×6) was the highest individual score in the tournament, followed by Khurram Manzoor’s 143 not out (163b, 15×4, 1×6) and Shan Masood’s 141 (128b, 12×4).

Khyber Left-arm spinner Asif Afridi was the pick of the bowlers with 25 wickets, including a hat-trick. However, he reserved his best bowling performance of five for 31 till the final that helped his side to spin Central Punjab out for 239 in 47 overs.

Zahid Mahmood’s 19 wickets helped him earn a Pakistan call-up for the T20Is against South Africa, while other notable bowlers were Central Punjab’s due of Usman Qadir (17) and Ahmed Bashir (16), and Mohammad Umar of Sindh (15).

There were five five-fers – two by Asif Afridi and one each by Usman Qadir, Umer Khan and Amad Butt – and 15 four-fers, one each by Hassan Khan, Danish Aziz, Mohammad Umar (all Sindh), Gohar Faiz, Raza-ul-Hasan, Taj Wali (Balochistan), Mohammad Abbas, Mohamamd Ilyas, Zahid Mahmood (all Southern Punjab), Ahmed Bashir, Usman Qadir (both Central Punjab), Hammad Azam (Northern), Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Khan, Irfanullah Shah (all Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

Northern all-rounder Hammad Azam who scored 443 runs at 44.30 with the help of two fifties’ and took 13 wickets at 29.69 was named the Player-of-the-Tournament.

The wicketkeeper’s honours went to Sindh’s Azam Khan, who was declared the Best Wicketkeeper of the Tournament for his 13 dismissals in seven matches.

While there were a number of tense and tight finishes, the second semi-final between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern was the only match that was decided in the Super Over after both the sides finished at 303 runs piece.

In the other close finishes, Balochistan beat Southern Punjab by one wicket, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by two wickets and Sindh by three wickets. Apart from defeating Southern Punjab by one-wicket, Balochistan’s other two last-over victories were against Central Punjab (by six wickets) and Sindh (by three wickets).

Northern’s 154-run win against Central Punjab was the largest victory in terms of runs, while Southern Punjab was twice involved in biggest victories in terms of wickets when they defeated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and eight wickets each.

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