Mardan Warriors produced a superb all-round performance against Rawalpindi Raiders in the Pakistan Junior League Eliminator on Wednesday night to keep alive their hopes of a place in the tournament final on Friday. Warriors went past a paltry 122-run target in the 19th over for the loss of a mere four wickets.
The Shahid Afridi mentored Warriors will now play Bahawalpur Royals in the Qualifier 2 tomorrow, the winner will seal the second final’s berth and take on Gwadar Sharks in the tournament decider on Friday evening.
At the start of the chase, Warriors lost George Thomas (7) in the third over of their innings. Opener Shahzaib Khan and Mohammad Farooq eased the nerves of their camp with a series of punishing shots that the Raiders bowlers and fielders had no answers to. The pair added 65 runs for the second-wicket, Farooq (32 off 20 balls, five fours and one six) was caught at deep cover with the score at 77 (9.3 overs).
Shahzaib (35 off 32 balls, four fours, one six) looked set for a big one before holing out to deep mid-wicket of Afnan Khan on the last ball of the 12th over, his dismissal left Warriors at 84 for three – needing 38 off the last 48 balls.
Haseeb Khan and Ollie Cox (26 not out) added 30 for the fourth-wicket, Haseeb (12) was caught at mid-on with a mere eight runs needed for a win off the last 14 balls. Cox finished the match in company of skipper Abbas Ali with eight balls to spare.
Raiders won the toss and opted to bat but the decision backfired as the Warriors made a big breakthrough in the first over when left-arm-spinner dismissed Hassan Eisakhil lbw (1). Aseer Mughal who was promoted to number three contributed a single run to a 32-run stand with Habibullah before falling to Abidullah. Haroon Arshad (13) added 32 for the third-wicket with his captain before holing out to long-on off Archie Lenham.
Habibullah played a captain’s knock and held the Raiders’ innings together while playing some delightful shots, the right-hander did the bulk of the scoring for his side. His 65 off 51 balls (six fours, two sixes) ended when he was caught by Irfan off his own bowling with the score at 98 (14 overs).
Habibullah’s dismissal triggered a batting collapse as the Warriors tightened the screws. The Raiders lost their last seven wickets (including Habibullah’s) for the addition of a mere 23 runs in 27 balls. They were bowled out for 121 in 19.3 overs
Pacer Abidullah was the pick of the Warriors bowlers in what turned out to be an outstanding team effort by the bowling attack. Abidullah, the right-armer, produced an inspirational spell taking three wickets for 17 in his four overs. Lenham, Mohammad Nabeel and Irfan took two wickets each.