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Iftikhar Ahmed's unbeaten century gives Punjab maiden victory

Rawalpindi, 8 April 2019Iftikhar Ahmed scored his second successive century of the Mughal Steel Pakistan Cup 2019 as Punjab defeated defending champions Federal Areas at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi, on Monday.

Iftikhar’s 109 not out (89 balls, six fours, six sixes) was the cornerstone of his side’s first victory, and despite the result, Punjab are out of contention for a place in Friday’s final (April 12) with a mere two points from three games. Punjab’s last match is against Sindh on 11 April.

This was Federal Areas’ third defeat in as many matches, which has also ended their hopes of defending the title. Their last match is against Balochistan on 10 April.

Set a 322-run target, Punjab made a shaky start when Kamran Akmal and Khurram Manzoor perished in quick succession after a 47-run opening stand. Kamran fell for 15 to pacer Khurram Shehzad, while Khurram Manzoor was dismissed by Mohammad Nawaz for a 47-ball 39 that included seven fours.

The run-chase was revived by Sami Aslam and Iftikhar as the pair added 116 runs for the third wicket, before Sami was sent packing by Asad Afridi for a 73-ball 81. The left-hander’s innings included 10 fours.

Sami, however, had provided a launching pad for Iftikhar, who took control of the chase with calculated stroke play. The right-hander found a capable partner in Saad Ali and the two guided their side home with consummate ease as Federal Areas’ bowlers capitulated against the onslaught.

Saad scored 76 not out off 50 balls with the help of 11 fours and one six. The two added 146 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket partnership as Punjab overhauled the target in 46.4 overs.

Earlier, Federal Areas, put into bat, got off to a solid start as openers Ahmad Shehzad and Israrullah built a 157-run opening partnership. The duo looked untroubled and well set when off-spinner Waleed Ahmed struck. Waleed sent Ahmad back for 74 (78 balls, 11 fours, one six) to trigger a mini-collapse.

After dismissing Ahmad, Waleed got rid of Saud Shakeel (2), Mohammad Rizwan (13) and Israrullah 96 (95 balls, 11 fours, one six) in quick successions. Sohaib Maqsood and Mohammad Nawaz repaired the damage with a 59-run sixth wicket partnership, before Nawaz fell for 25 (28 balls, four fours).

Sohaib took the attack to the bowlers in the last few overs before he was sent back by an express Mohammad Sami yorker. Sohaib’s 55 included two fours and five sixes, he faced 45 balls. Asad Afridi (16) and Bilal Asif (19) took the score past the 300-run mark.

Federal Areas were bowled out for 321 in 49.4 overs, Waleed took four wickets, conceding 59 runs in his 10 overs while Sami took three for 69 in his quota of 10. 

Scores in brief:

Punjab beat Federal Areas by six wickets

Federal Areas 321 all out in 49.4 overs (Israrullah 96, Ahmad Shehzad 74, Sohaib Maqsood 55; Waleed Ahmed 4-59, Mohammad Sami 3-69)

Punjab 327 for 3 in 46.4 overs (Iftikhar Ahmed 109 not out, Sami Aslam 81, Saad Ali 76 not out, Khurram Manzoor 39, Khurram Shehzad 1-32)

Players of the match – Iftikhar Ahmed and Waleed Ahmed (Punjab)

Tuesday’s fixture – Sindh vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa