Rawalpindi: Mohammad Rizwan struck a brilliant and half-century and Iftikhar Ahmed hit a quick-fire 40 not out as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa began their National T20 title defence with 36 runs victory over Central Punjab
Rizwan hit seven fours and a six in a 40-ball 65, while Iftikhar’s 25-ball 40 included six fours and a six that helped the defending champions to collect 187 for five in 20 overs after being put into bat on Thursday evening.
Babar’s Azam Central Punjab needed a fiery start but they lost Kamran Akmal (three) in the fourth over to Imran Khan Snr while Babar departed in the seventh over to Asif Afridi.
Ahmed Shehzad (24) got out to Arshad Iqbal in the 10th over with CP struggling at 71 for three at the halfway stage before finishing at 151 for nine.
Muhammad Akhlaq fought a lone battle with a breezy 62, but lacked the support and big-hitting from the other end as the required run-rate continued to climb. When he eventually departed at the total of 128 in the 17th, it was all over for Central Punjab who ultimately fell 36 runs short.
Akhlaq’s 35-ball cameo included six fours and four sixes.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of bowlers with three for 25, while Arshad Iqbal and Imran Khan claimed two wickets apiece.
Earlier, Fakhar Zaman (26) and Rizwan provided Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a solid 67-run start before Adil Amin (18) and Rizwan stitched up a 45-run partnership for the second wicket.
Iftikhar then featured in two useful stands – 39 runs for the fourth wicket with Sahibzada Farhan (12) and an unbroken 29 for the sixth wicket with Mohammad Wasim (11 not out) as the reigning champions added 91 runs in the last 10 overs to finish at 187 for five.
For Central Punjab, Hasan Ali was as impressive as ever with three for 30, while Ahmed Safi Abdulllah and Wahab Riaz picked up a wicket each conceding 23 and 31 runs, respectively.