It took the left-handed pairing of Fawad Alam and Danish Aziz to enable Karachi Whites become rightful champions of the National One-day Regional Cup with a stupendous run chase against Islamabad in the final on Sunday.
Faced with a daunting target after Babar Azam’s 105 and Shahid Yousuf’s undefeated 96 had propelled Islamabad to 347-4 at the Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, Karachi Whites were in real strife at 149-4 at the beginning of the 27th over before young Danish joined Fawad to take the game away from Islamabad in a magnificent partnership of 192 from only 132 deliveries.
The deal for last year’s runners-up was eventually sealed by Anwar Ali — who arrived after Fawad was taken in the deep by Babar — hoisted seamer Shehzad Azam Rana over square for a massive first-ball six.
Pakistan discard Fawad sent out yet another forceful statement of his fighting qualities to the Inzamam-ul-Haq’s PCB National Selection Committee — with two members, Wajahatullah Wasti and Wasim Haider, in attendance on Sunday — by stroking way to a career-best 149, a 130-ball knock that easily made him the recipient of the Rs100,000 man-of-the-match award.
Danish, on the other hand, underlined his growing reputation as another emerging talent as the former Pakistan Under-19 representative, now 22, ended up his highest List A score of 84 not out in 15 matches.
Both Fawad and Danish were not required to bat deep much in previous matches of the tournament with the bulk of runs coming from Khurram Manzoor and captain Asad Shafiq, who between amassed 978 runs at the top of the order.
But both Khurram (7) and Asad (22) fell early in the piece on Sunday. Khurram misjudged not only the length but the pace of the delivery which spinner Raza Hasan fired in line of the stumps to clean him up, while Asad got a toe edge while attempting an audacious pull from outside the off stump but found Shahid Yousuf taking a neat catch at short midwicket.
Fawad then joined Akbar-ur-Rehman (41 off 67 balls, two fours and one six) to bring Karachi Whites back in the picture with a stand of 96 in 98 balls.
Faisal Iqbal’s wretched run of low scores continued on Sunday as the former Pakistan right-hander holed out to mid-on after making just four, taking his total in the competition to mere 51 runs from five innings.
However, the pendulum began to swing in favour of Karachi Whites as the Fawad-Danish alliance flourished with each passing over. Danish, in particularly, looked supremely confident in shot selection as belted six sixes and four fours during his 65-ball innings.
Fawad, with all his peculiarities when it comes to batting, found gaps with those trademark nudges and when it mattered the doughty batsman managed to find the fence 18 times as well, while surpassing a personal best one-day score of 130 — scored exactly at the same venue in a losing cause for Sindh against Balochistan during the Pakistan Cup last April — in what was his eighth ton in 183 matches.
Earlier, Shan Masood and Abid Ali, who was later adjudged the most outstanding player of this event for scoring 509 runs and making nine dismissals (five catches and four stumpings) before falling to the event’s best bowler Zia-ul-Haq for 37 in the final — provided Islamabad a good foundation with an opening stand of 83 in 78 balls after Shan elected to bat first at the toss.
Shan, who bagged his second ‘best batsman’ prize in successive tournaments after amassing 656 runs at 109.33 in the just-ended event, was brilliantly caught and bowled by his Karachi Whites counterpart Asad Shafiq after looking good again in a brisk 45-ball innings of 51 (10 boundaries).
After Abid and Faizan Riaz (27) also departed, Babar and Shahid came together to put on 145 in 120 balls for the fourth wicket. Babar brought up his second ton in three days as the Pakistan star slammed eight fours and two sixes in his 95-ball contribution, which was also his 17th hundred in 103 appearances.
Shahid — one of the unluckiest cricketers not to play for country despite being rated among the best of his generation — missed out on a fifth century but his 74-ball effort, featuring nine fours and two sixes, put Islamabad in driving seat at the halfway point. But in the end, Islamabad came second best while Shan was denied a being a winner second time in the space of four weeks after playing a key role in United Bank’s title win in the preceding competition.