Azam, Sarfaraz secure semi-final berth for Sindh
Azam Khan made quickfire 88 to take SIndh to semi-finals. PCB
Sparkling half-centuries by Azam Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed carried Sindh into the semi-finals of the National T20 Cup with a 25-run win over Northern, the table-toppers, at the Pindi Cricket Stadium Wednesday.
Azam blasted 88 runs at a staggering strike rate of 204.65 to record what was the 22-year-old’s second half-century of the tournament and third of his overall T20 career.
The right-handed batsman stitched a crucial 130-run stand with his captain Sarfaraz, who stroked a scintillating 52 not out from 28 balls, for the fourth wicket from just 59 balls, which lifted Sindh to an imposing 221 for four.
The two had come together when Saud Shakeel, who replaced Asad Shafiq and scored 25 runs from 18 balls on the back of four fours, was caught by Haider Ali on the last ball of the ninth over on Mohammad Nawaz’s bowling. Sindh, who had been asked to bat first by Northern captain Imad Wasim, were 67 for three at that stage.
The partnership between Azam and Sarfaraz was largely dominated by the former as he contributed 84 runs that came at a strike rate of 233.
Azam's stay at the crease was studded by eight sixes and five fours. He was dismissed by Mohammad Amir, who returned two for 42 in four overs after replacing Haris Rauf, on the second ball of the penultimate over.
Speaking about his innings, Azam said: “I feel an innings was due on me. I have been struggling to convert my starts into big scores. The plan now is to continue to play like this in the upcoming matches. Some boundaries early on provided me with the desired confidence then Saifi bhai [Sarfaraz Ahmed] gave me a lot of support and confidence after he joined me in the middle. That I have had a few partnerships with him in the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 also helped.”
Sarfaraz smashed three sixes and as many fours as he recorded his first half-century of the tournament.
Northern were provided with a solid start by Umar Amin and Zeeshan Malik as both batsmen scored fighting half-centuries and knitted a 116-run stand for the first wicket. Umar, made 51 off 42 balls, hitting six fours and two sixes, while Zeeshan raced to 61 from 35 balls, smashing three sixes and six fours as his opening partner.
The run-chase, however, turned on its head on the last three balls of the 13th over. Anwar Ali, who finished with two for 32 from four overs, dismissed both openers on back-to-back balls before Asif Ali (one off one) was run out on the last ball of the over.
A 39-run stand for the fourth wicket between Haider Ali and Shadab Khan promised to bring the run chase back on track. But, Mohammad Hasnain, who was the pick of the bowlers for Sindh with three for 28, accounted for Haider (27 off 13, four fours and a six) in the 17th over before dismissing Shadab, who scored 26 off 16 balls, and Rohail Nazir (four off two) in his next over as Northern fell 25 runs short of the 222-run target despite four wickets win in hand.
Sindh: 221-4, 20 overs (Azam Khan 88, Sarfaraz Ahmed 52 not out, Saud Shakeel 25, Sharjeel Khan 21; Mohammad Amir 2-42)
Northern: 196-6, 20 overs (Zeeshan Malik 61, Umar Amin 51, Haider Ali 27, Shadab Khan 26; Mohammad Hasnain 3-28, Anwar Ali 2-32)
Player of the match: Azam Khan (Sindh)