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Cricket: Wahab and Azhar lead Punjab to easy win

Wahab and Azhar lead Punjab to easy winPunjab 219 for 2 (Azhar Ali 87*, Jamshed 63, Butt 51) beat Federal Areas 218 (Umar Amin 77, Riaz 5-44) by eight wickets

A rousing tournament produced a damp finale as Punjab Stallions romped home in the Pentangular Cup final defeating the Federal Areas Leopards by eight wickets at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Punjab had been the strongest team through the tournament, going into the final undefeated, and they lived up to their billing as favourites with solid displays in all departments. Wahab Riaz's mid and late-innings five-for set the game up before fifties from the top three saw them overhaul the meagre 219-run target with over eight overs remaining.

A later-than-normal start still didn't stop Shoaib Malik from fielding after winning the toss, and the decision never seemed in danger of backfiring. Sarfraz Ahmed was tidy from the off, a wrong-foot action, an ambling run-up and a tight line stifling FA's openers.

Mohammad Talha was less restrictive, but his energy and pace kept both openers honest and though Babar Naeem began to open up, Raheel Majeed was soon gone. The hugely impressive Umar Amin then took over responsibility for building a defendable total on a flat pitch.

Amin has stepped in to the national limelight after an impressive tournament and here was evidence why. Unfussed and compact, he kept runs ticking over, occasionally pinching a timely boundary. Runs came all around the wicket and the pace never really flagged; the task of having a total built around him clearly not much of an ask.

Unfortunately others around him weren't on the same page. Three partnerships through the middle of 46, 57 and 47 threatened but never went on. Two of those were ended by the excellent Riaz, who came on over halfway into the innings and proceeded to bowl a nuanced limited overs spell.

He struck in his first over but with variations in pace and angles, he kept striking through the second half of the innings. Usman Saeed and Mohammad Salman both fished outside off and Amin himself fell leg-before to a fine yorker as he looked to accelerate: the three were the jewels of Riaz's five-wicket crown. Talha returned impressively and together the pair ensured that FA lost their last six wickets for only 47 runs in barely eight overs.

Punjab's greater strength has been their top order and unless the mood took Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanvir, you felt, the target was never going to trouble them. It didn't, as Shoaib pitched repeatedly short and Tanvir too wide, allowing Nasir Jamshed, in particular, a breezy start.

Jamshed fairly sped away soon after the start - Shoaib was pulled repeatedly to the fence and once driven arrow straight down the ground in grand fashion. The slower-paced bowlers were charged, as a Gambhir or Hayden might do, and lofted around midwicket and straight.

Azhar Ali provided inconspicuous support, nurdling and nudging away and as the pitch became duller than dishwater, the only way to a wicket seemed a run-out. Duly it came, a horrendous mix-up leaving Jamshed stranded for a blazing 56-ball 63. With him went the entertainment and it was left to Salman Butt to elegantly, if quietly, craft his way to a fifty and Punjab to the title.

Azhar snuck up unnoticed, occasionally lifting his head above the surface with a boundary and a low-key 87 sealed the final deal. Riaz it was, however, who deservedly got the player of the final award for his game-breaking spell earlier in the day.

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