NBP and HBL fight for the final
After having taken a big first-innings lead, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) took another step towards a place in the final as they set Sialkot a rather steep target of 367 for victory in the first-round replay match at the Multan Cricket Stadium. Resuming on 163 for 6 overnight, Sialkot were bundled out for 203 courtesy of a Wahab Riaz five-for. With a lead of 141, NBP went for quick runs in their second innings, scoring 225 for 5 in just 41 overs before declaring. With a mammoth task at hand, Sialkot openers saw out the nine overs before close to reduce the target by 33 runs with Kamran Younis stroking a 21-ball 25. For NBP, opener Nasir Jamshed (48 off 31 with five fours and four sixes), Shahid Yousuf (46) and Fawad Alam (46) all provided quick runs in order to gain maximum points from the match. Mohammad Imran, meanwhile, picked up four wickets for 66 runs but his team is left with a stiff task of holding the NBP bowlers at bay as they throw everything at them for a final-day victory.
A majestic unbeaten 167 by Ijaz Ahmed allowed Faisalabad to finish the day on 330 for 6 against Lahore Ravi at the Iqbal Stadium. Facing 232 balls for his 30th first-class century, Ijaz hit 23 fours and two sixes and was involved in a 187-run third-wicket partnership with Ammar Mahmood, whose 76 came off 118 balls with 10 fours. However, apart from this duo, none of the Faisalabad batsmen were able to contribute significantly as leg-spinner Imran Haider (4 for 105) wrested some initiative for Lahore, who lost four wickets for only 86 runs towards the end of the day.
Table-leaders Habib Bank Limited (HBL) started their final round match well by scoring 329 for 7 on the opening day against Karachi Whites at the United Bank Limited Sports Complex. Needing a win to confirm their place in the final, Habib Bank made use of internationals such as Shahid Afridi and Hasan Raza to post a decent total. Afridi hammered a characteristic 70 off 78 deliveries with the help of seven fours and three sixes in his 122 runs stand for the fourth wicket with Raza (65 off 130 balls). HBL, in a rather strange start to the innings, sent in their fast bowler Fahad Masood to open the innings as well as sending Abdur Rehman, the left-arm spinner, at No. 3, both ploys that worked out well for the side. Fahad and Rehman put on 54 runs for the second wicket as Rehman's 47 came off 90 balls with eight fours while Fahad hit three boundaries in his 33 off 45 deliveries. Rehman then added 53 runs for the third wicket with Raza before the in-form Aftab Khan (40) and Kamran Hussain (39) added 72 runs for the unbroken eighth-wicket stand to take Habib Bank beyond the 300-run mark.
No play was possible on the first day of the match between Hyderabad and Pakistan Customs at Niaz Stadium as the pitch was unplayable due to wet conditions and overnight rain in the city.
Leaders Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) bowled out bottom-placed Quetta for 195 at the Gaddafi Stadium and had their openers put on 75 before close on the first day. Adil Raza and Adnan Rasool captured three wickets apiece as Quetta batsmen failed to build on their starts and Sabir Hussain managed to get into the 30s. In reply, Mohammad Hafeez, SNGPL's captain, had scored an unbeaten 45 off 57 balls and Yasir Arafat (23*) gave their team a solid start to the last match before playing the final in their debut season.
Put into bat first, Karachi Blues reached 260 for 8 against Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) at the National Stadium courtesy of a century of debut by Sheharyar Ghani. After having been reduced to 62 for 4, Karachi owed much to a 69-run fifth-wicket partnership between Ghani and Tariq Haroon (34) for the recovery. Ghani smashed 22 boundaries in his 122 that came off 224 balls. He also added 67 for the eighth-wicket with Tabish Khan, who is unbeaten on 48 scored off only 63 deliveries. Anwar Ali captured four wickets for PIA to send the national selectors a timely reminder ahead of the Zimbabwe series.
Rawalpindi's 18-year-old Fawad Hussain achieved a century on first-class debut and helped his team reach 255 for 6 against Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) at the KRL Stadium. Coming in at No. 5, Fawad scored 102 off 206 balls with 14 boundaries as wickets fell regularly around him. Fourteen extras from the Rawalpindi bowlers helped KRL on their way as well as none of the batsmen, bar Fawad, were able to make a big impact on proceedings. Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took three wickets for 26 runs for KRL as Bilal Asad and Sohail Tanvir grabbed two apiece.
Abbottabad opening bowlers tore through the Lahore Shalimar line-up and had them reeling at an astonishing 19 for 6 at close at the Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA) Ground after having scored 236 in their first-innings. Junaid Khan and Armaghan Elahi captured three wickets apiece as Lahore face a daunting task of avoiding the follow-on. For Abbottabad, asked to bat first, opener Ghulam Mohammad (32) and captain Adnan Raees (39) contributed well with the bat but it was Khalid Usman, batting at No. 7, who took his side to respectability with an aggressive 66 off 76 balls. Usman's effort nullified to some extent the good work of fast bowlers Mohammad Naved and Mohammad Saeed, who bagged four wickets each for 77 and 54 runs, respectively. However, the nine overs before close changed the complexion of the match as Abbottabad look set to finish with a big first-innings lead.
At the Arbab Niaz Stadium, Islamabad dismissed Peshawar for 202 and had reached 86 for 3 in reply by close of play. In trouble at 105 for 7 at one stage, Islamabad were rescued by a 65-run eight-wicket partnership between Sajjad Ahmed (62*) and Riaz Afridi (44). For Islamabad, Rauf Akbar captured five wickets for 48 runs and was ably assisted by leg-spinner Ameer Khan who captured three wickets. Although Islamabad stumbled to 19 for 3, Mohammad Fayyaz (44) and Asadullah Sumari (20) steered them out of trouble.