LAHORE   -   Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faced their first loss of the Kingdom Valley National T20 Cup 2022-23 as Central Punjab successfully de­fended 194-run target at the Mul­tan Cricket Stadium on Sunday. 

This was Khyber Pakhtunkh­wa’s first defeat after five consec­utive wins. Khyber Pakhtunkh­wa, the winners of the 2020 and 2021 editions, are defending their throne. Southern Punjab began the Multan leg of the tour­nament with a win. They defeat­ed Balochistan by 20 runs (DLS method) as a dust storm at the completion of the sixth over of the run chase ended the match. 

It was a brilliant second wicket 98-run partnership be­tween opener Mohammad Fai­zan and one-drop Tayyab Tahir that set the platform for Cen­tral Punjab’s towering 193 all out – the last wicket falling on the last ball – and an eventual 25-run victory. This was Cen­tral Punjab’s only second win of the tournament. 

Central Punjab were dealt a blow early when Faizan and Tayyab put a strong counterat­tack, pushing KP’s bowlers on the backfoot. Faizan scored 72 off 36 including 7 sixes and 4 fours while Tayyab smashed 75 in 48 before he was run out. KP bowlers Maaz Khan and M Imran came into play in the second part of the innings and shared seven wickets between them. Maaz re­turned 4-46 and Imran 3-30. 

KP’s run chase derailed after a promising start with the dis­missal of M Haris (14 off 15). Sa­hibzada Farhan top-scored with 47 and was removed in the 11th over with the scorecard reading 77-3. Sarwar Afridi and Khalid Usman put a fight in the middle order scoring 28 and 24, but that did not prove to be enough for KP. Hunain Shah returned 2-28 while Aamer Yamin and Ali As­fand took two wickets each, as KP were restricted to 168-9. 

Balochistan were all out - al­beit on the last ball of the innings - for 144. Ali Majid took 3-27, M Ilyas returned 2-19, captain Salman Agha 2-26 and M Imran 2-23. With 27 each, Asad Shafiq and Kashif Bhatti top-scored for Balochistan. Southern Punjab’s run chase was off to a perfect start with Umar Siddiq (32*) and Zain Abbas (21*) adding 54 runs. When the dust storm set in, S Punjab were 20 runs ahead of Balochistan and were declared winners