KARACHI: Shan Masood continued his phenomenal improvement as a limited-overs run machine with a career-best innings on Friday as Islamabad held off Rawalpindi’s spirited challenge to set up the National One-day Regional Cup title-decider against Karachi Whites.
In a high-scoring second semi-final — yielding 747 runs in 100 overs at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, an Iftikhar Ahmed century helped Rawalpindi overcome a stuttering start to reach 367-9 after Mohammad Hafeez’s decision to field first saw Islamabad pile up 380-2.
Still struggling to make his mark as a Test opening batsman, the Kuwait-born Shan has gradually emerged a formidable one-day player as the 28-year-old rode his luck to plunder an undefeated 182 — the left-hander’s fifth three-figure knock in the space of just 44 days while taking his tally to an astonishing 1,237 runs in only 16 games across the departmental and regional competitions — for career’s ninth List A century in 71 appearances.
Shan, who has been signed by PSL’s newest franchise Multan Sultans, is now on the threshold of becoming back-to-back title winners after piling up 632 runs during United Bank Limited’s One-day Departmental Cup triumph in which he scored three hundreds, including an unbeaten 145 against PTV on day one of that tournament on Dec 28.
On Friday, Shan not only surpassed that score but also shared a huge second-wicket partnership of 283 in 210 deliveries with Babar Azam, who returned to domestic cricket with a bang as the Pakistan right-hander made 136.
Babar had a horrendous time during the recent New Zealand tour where he mustered only 34 runs during Pakistan’s 0-5 ODI thrashing by the Black Caps. But on Friday, he looked in fine touch slamming five sixes and 13 fours in his 106-ball stay at the crease.
Both Shan and Babar had fair share of luck as Rawalpindi let both of them off the hook through shoddy fielding.
Man-of-the-match Shan, who adorned his 153-ball contribution with 20 boundaries and one six, even escaped being dismissed on 103 when he was saved by a no-ball from seamer Ataullah.
That big stand followed the solid start provided by Shan and Abid Ali (36), who added 71 for the first wicket.
Rawalpindi were extremely unlucky in the chase and didn’t enjoy the luxury afford to Islamabad in the first half of the day as both Umar Amin and Iftikhar got run out in the most tragic manner possible while backing up at the non-striker’s end.
Umar (11) was found out of his crease when the ball ricocheted off spinner Raza Hasan’s outstretched hand onto the stumps. Iftikhar departed in the 46th over when the game was still alive. Paceman Shehzad Azam Rana got his boot in the way of a drive from striker Umair Masood and the ball was deflected in the direction of the stumps with Iftikhar almost having reached the middle of the pitch.
Until that moment Iftikhar was chiefly responsible for keeping Islamabad on their toes with a superlative display of batting as the Pakistan discard bravely led a great resurgence after Hafeez (48 off 44 balls, six fours and two sixes) was castled by an unplayable Nauman Ali delivery that spun sharply to hit the top of the off stump after it pitched on the leg to leave Rawalpindi in dire straits at 84-3 in the 15th over.
But Iftikhar and Saud Shakeel (70 off 62 balls, nine boundaries) brought their team back into contention as their right/left-handed partnership swelled to 146 from 120 balls before Nauman trapped Saud on the sweep.
After Iftikhar was dismissed for 110-ball 123, featuring eight fours and four sixes), ex-Pakistan U-19 wicket-keeper Umair Masood deservingly completed his maiden List A half-century by hoisting Shehzad for successive sixes on the last two balls of a thoroughly engrossing knockout fixture. Umair’s 50 off just 34 balls included two further sixes and two fours.
Karachi Whites had booked their place in Sunday’s final after sealing a five-wicket win against dethroned champions Peshawar in the first semi-final on Thursday.
Shan Masood not out 182
Abid Ali c Iftikhar b Yasir 36
Babar Azam c Saud b Saad 136
Faizan Riaz not out 12
EXTRAS (LB-8, W-5, NB-1) 14
TOTAL (for two wkts, 50 overs) 380
FALL OF WKTS: 1-71, 2-354.
DID NOT BAT: Saad Ali, Shahid Yousuf, Shehzad Azam Rana, Nauman Ali, Raza Hasan, Hamza Nadeem, Ahmed Bashir.
BOWLING: Saad Altaf 8-0-62-1 (2w); Ataullah 8-0-52-0 (1nb, 3w); Yasir Ali 9-1-80-1; Umar Amin 4-0-26-0; Kashif Bhatti 10-0-78-0; Saud Shakeel 5-0-34-0; Iftikhar Ahmed 6-0-40-0.
Mohammad Hafeez b Nauman 48
Naved Malik c Abid b Shehzad 10
Umar Amin run out 11
Iftikhar Ahmed run out 123
Saud Shakeel lbw b Nauman 70
Zeeshan Malik c Babar b Ahmed 31
Umair Masood not out 50
Kashif Bhatti c and b Hamza 1
Yasir Ali b Hamza 8
Ataullah b Hamza 4
Saad Altaf not out 0
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-1, W-6, NB-3) 11
TOTAL (for nine wkts, 50 overs) 367
FALL OF WKTS: 1-21, 2-40, 3-84, 4-230, 5-269, 6-320, 7-324, 8-349, 9-353.
BOWLING: Raza Hasan 10-0-63-0 (1nb, 1w); Shehzad Azam Rana 10-0-75-1 (2nb, 3w); Ahmed Bashir 10-1-61-1; Nauman Ali 10-0-81-2; Hamza Nadeem 10-0-85-3.
RESULT: Islamabad won by 13 runs.
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza and Khalid Mahmood.
TV UMPIRE: Mohammad Sajid Afridi.
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Anees.
OFFICIAL SCORER: Shakeel Ahmed.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shan Masood.
FINAL: Karachi Whites vs Islamabad, Sunday.