LAHORE: A sensational batting performance by Luc Martin Benkenstein booked Pakistan Junior League (PJL) final’s spot for Gawadar Sharks after they beat Bahawalpur Royals in qualifier 1 here at Gaddafi Stadium today.
The Sharks won the toss and opted to field first, restricting Royals to 139 runs before chasing down the target in 18.2 overs, thanks to Benkenstein, who produced a magnificent 71 off 37 balls, including eight fours and three sixes.
Benkenstein’s innings helped Sharks make light work of the 140-run chase after a below-par batting performance by the Royals. The right-hander added 76 runs in the match winning second-wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Mohammad Zulkifal that paved the way for Sharks chase without any major hiccups.
Zulkifal maintained his side’s supremacy in their chase by stroking 51 off 44 balls (four fours, one six). The right-hander finished the game in company of Danial Ibrahim (12 not out) with 10 balls to spare. The two added 46 runs in their unbroken third-wicket partnership amid some sloppy fielding and catching by Royals who endured a real off-day.
Earlier, Royals were jolted early in their innings by a fiery opening spell by Mohammad Ismail. The right-armer dismissed Tayyab Arif for a first-ball duck with a brilliant away swinging delivery. Basit Ali (20), the linchpin of the Royals’ batting line-up and tournament’s highest run-getter then fell attempting a big shot of Ismail with Haseeb Nazim taking the catch at mid-on.
The Sharks tightened their grip with the wicket of wicketkeeper Shawaiz Irfan (5) which left Royals at 49 for three in 6.5 overs.
Skipper Obaid Shahid who sat out the previous two games was the fourth batter to fall, the right-hander was run out for 21 (23 balls) in the 11th over. The Royals only reached their eventual total of 139 for seven due to a 54-run fifth-wicket stand between Mohammad Danish (33 off 31 balls, two fours, one six) and Farhan Yousaf (30 off 24 balls, three fours).
Ismail was the pick of the Sharks attack, in his penetrative spell four-over spell, Ismail conceded a mere 10 runs and took three crucial wickets. Arafat Minhas, Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Shoaib took a wicket apiece.
In tomorrow’s Eliminator, Rawalpindi Raiders will play Mardan Warriors, the winners will take on Royals in Qualifier 2 for the second spot in Friday’s tournament final.
Sharks will now face the winner of Thursday’s Qualifier 2 in the tournament final a day later.