RAWALPINDI - Lahore Blues moved a step closer towards ensuring a berth in the semifinals of the National Twenty20 Cup 2017-18 after beating Fata by 19 runs here at the Pindi Stadium on Monday.

Fata, requiring 179 runs for victory, could score 158-7. Despite a sensational unbeaten 74 from Sohail Akhtar, Fata fell short by 19 runs. Sohail hit 4 fours and as many sixes to gather 56 balls while Asif Afridi scored 37. Aizaz Cheema captured 3-24 and Salman Ali Agha 1-19. Hussain Talat and Aizaz Cheema were declared joint players of the match.

Earlier, Fata skipper Hammad Azam won the toss and opted to field first, but once again, he failed to read the pitch. Lahore Blues took full advantage and piled up 177-4. Youngster Hussian Talat slammed unbeaten 68 off 46 balls, hitting 5 fours and 3 sixes while skipper M Hafeez gathered 31 runs and opener Ahmed Shahzad 29. Sameen Gul, M Irfan, Asif Afridi and Ahmed Jamal got one wickets apiece.

In the first match of the day played between Islamabad and Karachi Whites, star-studded and mainly based on outsiders, the federal capital team failed to even chase down a modest target of 149. Zohaib Ahmed won the toss and opted to field first. Karachi once again helped by Asad Shafiq could score 148-10 in 19 overs. Asad faced 27 balls to score 45 runs with the help of 5 fours and 2 sixes, while skipper Sarfraz Ahmed contributed 28. M Irfan and Umar Gul bagged three wickets each conceding 25 and 45 runs respectively, while Rahat, Adil and Raza Hassan got one wicket each.

Despite losing only 5 wickets, Islamabad could score 129-5 in 20 overs. Skipper Zohaib Ahmed wasted 12 deliveries and scored just 7 runs. Islamabad got off to flying start as openers Shan Masood and Nauman Anwar gave 55-run opening stand, but when Shan departed, Islamabad failed to score quick runs. Nauman Anwar gathered 34 runs, Saad Ali 25 and Shan Masood 25 runs, but their contributions were too less to help Islamabad win the match.

It was highly disappointing run-chase witnessed from the capital side, as wicket was playing normally and conditions were perfect to chase such a modest target, but reasons best known to Zohaib and coach, Islamabad failed miserably. Ruman Raees, Tabish Khan, Zulfiqar Babar, Azam Hussain and Anwar Ali claimed one wicket apiece.

It was once again highly disappointing crowd present at the venue. The PCB responsible doesn’t bother to pay heed to ensure the spectators enter the venue at least at general stands. Tournament organising committee chairman Haroon Rasheed finally reached the venue, not because he was asked to do so, but he had to be at Senate Standing Committee meeting, so he, with heavy heart, decided to finally pay visit to the Pindi Stadium as well, but he was least bothered about ensuring rectifying mistakes and was busy in spending time with powerful regional heads.

It was mentioned time and again that the spectators, despite sit-in stage by religious outfit, are turning up in quite numbers, but due to non-availability of tickets and free passes, which are only meant for Islamabad and Rawalpindi regional heads and their near and dear ones, the cricket-lovers had to return empty-handed or had to wait for hours at the main gate to get a glance of their favourite stars.

PCB chairman Najam Sethi must now wake up and check what is going on during mega national event. He must ensure that he is the boss and he would call all the shots and stamp out his authority. The old and used bullets, who had destroyed cricket and especially local talent, must now be sent packing or else, the masses will throw them out of the drawing rooms.

Instead of wasting huge quantity of passes daily, the PCB must use commonsense and let the spectators enter the venue free of cost, which will help pack the stadium and send a very clear message to international community that despite hazards and sit-ins, Pakistan is completely safe for hosting all kinds of international and national events.