: As the National T20 Cup for the First XI teams headed towards business end with the culmination of the 30-match league round later on Friday night, the persistent race for remaining one last-four berth was up for grabs in a three-way tie.
After the rather inconsequential game between holders Northern and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, the real battle was on in the garrison town between Balochistan and rank outsiders Southern Punjab when this report was being filed.
Firmly rooted at the base of six-team standings with just two victories in seven fixtures, Southern Punjab emerged out of nowhere as contenders for that spot late on Thursday night after decimating Sarfaraz Ahmed-led Sindh by a huge 70-run margin.
It was a remarkable turnaround for skipper Shan Masood and his charges. After choosing to bat first, Southern Punjab lost three wickets for mere eight runs at the start of fourth over.
But in a brilliant counterattack, Sohaib Maqsood and Khushdil Shah brought their side back in the contest as the right-left handed combination shared a magnificent partnership of 121 from 65 deliveries despite both being reprieved early on by the butter-fingered Sindh fielders.
Sohaib, who was declared man-of-the-match, bludgeoned 67 off 41 balls while striking six fours and four sixes. Khushdil, on the other hand, continued his excellent form to stake claims for the upcoming limited-overs series against Zimbabwe by striking five boundaries and three sixes in a buccaneering 32-ball 53.