With the end of the first leg of the National T20 Cup in Rawalpindi, the second leg of the short format tournament will begin today in Lahore.
During the first leg, the pitch conditions of the Pindi Cricket Stadium were more in favor of bowling sides. But, considering the nature of the pitches at the scenic Gaddafi Stadium, where batters flourish in general, especially in the T20 format, all of that is bound to alter.
Only three totals on the 200 mark were observed during the Rawalpindi leg. Northern overhauling Central Punjab’s 200-2 by reaching 201-4 in the same game, while holders Khyber Pakhtunkhwa posting the highest team score of 202-5 against Balochistan, who in turn had registered the lowest completed total of 98 against Sindh.
Sindh team led by Sarfaraz Ahmed stands at the top of the points table with a net run rate of 0.647. They share equal points with Muhammad Rizwan-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Babar Azam-led Central Punjab, and Shadab Kahn-led Northern. All teams have scored eight points each.
Balochistan stands at fifth place with four points while Southern Punjab is still looking for its first victory.
The second leg at Lahore will begin with Central Punjab going against Sindh in the afternoon, while Northern will go against Balochistan in the evening.
The semi-finals will be played on October 12 following the final the next day.
Skippers, in the meantime, are expecting to perform even better in the remaining matches of the National T20 Cup.
Babar says: “This National T20 has been one of the most exciting competitions I have ever been part of and I have no doubts that the quality and competitiveness of the tournament will get even better when we move to Lahore with all sides vying for semi-final berths.
“Central Punjab have not been able to make their fans happy in the last two editions, but we are eager to lift the trophy at our home ground this time.”
Sarfaraz remarks: “The Rawalpindi-leg brought us good results and have put us in a good position for a place in the semi-finals. We cannot afford to be complacent as we still have a long way to go. The pitches in Lahore should provide more scoring opportunities to the batters and need to ensure that we make full use of the conditions. While our top-order has been delivering for us as Sharjeel [Khan] and Khurram [Manzoor] are both contributing, we need a bit more from our middle and lower order.”
Rizwan has this to say: “We have one simple game plan, which is to play cricket according to contemporary standards. It worked for us in the last season and playing attacking, positive and modern-day cricket will help us in retaining our title and entertaining the fans in Lahore.
“We have achieved some good results in Rawalpindi, but the job is half done and our team understands that. We need to remain focused in Lahore, because all teams will be using the change of venue as an opportunity to re-gather and fill in the loopholes.”
Shadab comments: “The Rawalpindi-leg was hard fought as all teams produced some good cricket. We have gathered eight points and are eyeing a semi-final spot now. We play fearless brand of cricket and it has worked well for us not only this year but in the last two editions too.”
Imam-ul-Haq, the Balochistan skipper, points out: “We may not have achieved the desired results in Rawalpindi, but we are optimistic about our chances in Lahore. Over the last few days, we have identified gaps in our game plan and we will be looking to fill them when we take the field on Wednesday.”
Aamir Yamin, who replaced Sohaib Maqsood as Southern Punjab captain, remains hopeful of his team coming back into contention: “After the disappointment of the first leg we are entering the Lahore leg knowing that we have nothing to lose anymore. At the same time, we remember well how we turned it all around last year after an equally poor start.”
Meanwhile, the PCB has set the price of each stadium ticket at Rs50, with both the Imran Khan and Fazal Mahmood Enclosures reserved for families. Spectators are also encouraged to purchase tickets through www.bookme.pk. They are also advised to bring their vaccination certificates and CNIC when attending the matches.
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