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Imam, Gul heroics help Balochistan squeeze out three-run win over Central Punjab
Match Report

Imam, Gul heroics help Balochistan squeeze out three-run win over Central Punjab

Imam-ul-Haq fronted his side's scratchy batting performance with a fine 80 not out before Umar Gul rolled back the years with an incisive spell as Balochistan staved off a courageous fightback from Central Punjab to prevail by three runs.

The narrow margin of victory attained by Balochistan was largely due to a valiant knock from Zafar Gohar to spring Central Punjab back into the thrilling contest but the left-hander could not get a boundary on the final ball of the match.

Balochistan's Umaid Asif was at the center of the drama that unfurled in the ultimate over, which sealed the fate of the match. Having been entrusted the steep responsibility of defending 20 runs from six balls, Umaid was punished for a six and a four on the first two deliveries.

He learnt from his wayward lengths and adjusted his bowling accordingly to give away only four in the next three balls. Faced with the pressure situation, Umaid then bowled a wide leaving five runs for the last ball but Gohar failed to nail the slog and was denied a heroic ending to his 15-ball 32.

Earlier in the chase, first match centurion Abdullah Shafique and the hard-hitting Rizwan Hussain threatened to acquire a dominant hold on proceedings with their explosive partnership. However, 36-year-old Gul had other plans as he claimed the prized scalp of Shafique and cut short any middle-order resistance by adding the wickets of Irfan Khan Niazi and Qasim Akram to his tally.

The impact of Gul's outstanding figures of four for 37 was matched by leg-spinner Yasir Shah, whose subtle variations bamboozled the Central Punjab batsmen on the slow Multan surface. Yasir took three wickets in his frugal four-over spell, conceding only 23 runs.

The first innings saw Imam play a lone hand to guide Balochistan to 168-8 in their 20 overs. The bespectacled opening batsman found no support from fellow batting partners as no individual barring Awais Zia and Haris Sohail reached double figures.

With a hefty score of 94 in the previous game, Imam continued his purple patch with 80 off 55 balls to navigate his side through all the hurdles presented by the disciplined Central Punjab bowlers.

Balochistan were always in danger of losing momentum heading into the game with a lengthy tail, which became a problem for them as they frantically tried to accelerate in the death overs. Imam's batting exploits, nevertheless, helped lift them to a respectable total.