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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa crowned champions after Shoaib Malik stellar show
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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa crowned champions after Shoaib Malik stellar show

Shoaib Malik hit the fastest fifty of his T20 career before Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's pacers sealed the deal during Southern Punjab's chase to clinch their maiden National T20 Cup title.

After enduring an ordinary time in the middle for a majority of the tournament, Malik came good in the grand finale to launch an electrifying onslaught in the death overs of KP's innings.

The veteran batsman used up all his experience to size up the bowlers in his trademark style and unleash a vibrant and diverse range of strokes.

Malik had entered proceedings following a double strike, which threatened to condemn KP to a mediocre total on a flat surface.

The 38-year-old swiftly set about his business and pierced the gaps with utmost precision. He then proceeded to deploy exquisite slogs, all of which travelled far over the boundary rope.

Malik's spellbinding knock of 56 not out off just 22 deliveries featured four towering maximums and three fours as KP plundered 73 runs in the final four overs of their innings.

Malik's spectacular effort buttressed Fakhar Zaman's scintillating half-century upfront since he provided the early impetus to his team in the big knockout game.

Among the Southern Punjab bowlers, Zahid Mehmood and Mohammad Ilyas fared cheaply but the rest were frequently punished for their wayward lines and lengths.

“I think your goal is to give your best shot always, at times you do well, at times you don’t. I want to thank my management, especially coach Abdul Razzaq and captain Mohammad Rizwan for backing me when I needed their backing the most as I was struggling," Malik said in the aftermath of the title win.

"The opponents bat very deep that is why we wanted to post a big total today, I wanted to bat deep and keep attacking," he added.

In SP's chase, it was a similar story all over again as Shaheen Afridi burst into action with a wicket in his opening spell.

Sohaib Maqsood, Southern Punjab's protagonist from two nights ago, was removed for a first-ball duck by a Shaheen delivery that jagged back in strike his front pad.

Hussain Talat and Khushdil Shah then forged a resilient stand to reignite hopes of pulling off the daunting 207-run chase.

The two swatted three sixes each as they added 74 runs for the fourth wicket but their dismissals in the space of 12 balls broke the back of Southern Punjab's resistance.

Wahab Riaz inflicted significant damage on the middle-order, finishing with impressive figures of three for 36.

Tail-ender Muhammad Imran briefly had a field day as he shellacked four sixes, including three in the last over of the game by Usman Shinwari, but his sizzling hits merely reduced the margin of defeat for SP.

A beaming Mohammad Rizwan celebrated the victory alongside the star-studded KP team as they lifted the National T20 Cup trophy to cap off a successful campaign.