National T20 Cup: Iftikhar stars as KP beat Northern to qualify for final

Iftikhar Ahmed scored 45 runs from just 17 balls including 4 fours and 3 maximums

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The first semi-final between defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northern ended in a stunning fashion.

Northern, after posting 156 runs on the board in the first innings, made a terrific comeback with the ball. However, their efforts were all in vain thanks to a match-winning knock from Iftikhar Ahmed who turned around the match and helped KP reach the final of the National T20 Cup 2021.

Iftikhar Ahmed walked in at a crunch time when KP were struggling to keep up with the required run rate. He muscled his way to 45* from just 17 deliveries which included 4 boundaries and 3 maximums to help KP to victory by 5 wickets.

Sahibzada Farhan, leading run-scorer of the tournament, posted his third half-century of the tournament to give a stable start to KP but following his departure for 53 runs, KP started struggling. Nauman Ali’s remarkable bowling stint of 1-17 in 4 overs for Northern put extreme pressure which resulted in wickets of Kamran Ghulam (35) and Nabi Gul (1).

Defending 50 off the last five, Northern had an impressive start to the death phase of the run chase as Zaman Khan leaked mere four singles and dismissed Nabi Gul in the 16th over. The next over, delivered by experienced T20 bowler Sohail Tanvir, gave away only six runs.

It was the 18th over when Iftikhar Ahmed decided to take the charge with his side 40 runs away. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa captain smashed Zaman for two sixes in an over, which added 17 runs to the total. The 19th over was no different, which leaked 21 runs for Nothern. Needing just 2 runs from the last over, KP easily closed the game and cemented their place in the final.

Earlier, Northern made a promising start with Nasir Nawaz and Ali Imran opening the innings and posted 48/0 after 6 overs. The partnership was broken by Khalid Usman on the first ball of his spell and Nasir returned to the pavilion scoring 27 runs from 18 balls.

All of Northern’s batsmen fell in the 20s, with no one able to make the start count; KP’s clever bowling changes along with good fielding effort made it even more difficult.

KP managed to tighten things up in the field which put extra pressure on Northern. Usman Khalid took a brilliant catch in the deep to dismiss captain Umar Amin (22) whereas Zeeshan Malik (29) and Rohail Nazir (11) were both run-out.

Cameos from Sohail Tanvir and Aamer Jamal of 19 runs each helped Northern reach 156 runs after 20 runs. Arshad Iqbal remained the pick of the bowlers for KP as he picked up 3 wickets and gave away only 3 runs in the last over of the innings.

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