Islamabad beat Sialkot to keep final hopes alive
Group ANational Bank of Pakistan were three wickets away from a win over Khan Research Laboratories in Rawalpindi, which would have helped the leaders secure their place in the final. Only 59 overs were possible on the final day, and second-placed KRL managed to keep the difference to six points - they took three points from this game by virtue of their first-innings lead. Resuming on 292 for 3, NBP played out 16 overs before declaring their second innings at 357 for 4. Naumanullah and captain Qaiser Abbas, the overnight batsmen, made 80 and an unbeaten 63 to set KRL a target of 305. Quick strikes left KRL reeling at 13 for 4, but captain Mohammad Wasim held up one end with an unbeaten 72. They were at 152 for 7 at stumps, having seen off 43 overs. For NBP, Mohammad Aamer struck thrice and went past 50 wickets in the tournament, while both Wasim Khan and Irfanuddin took two wickets.
Hasan Raza, the Habib Bank Limited captain, scored 62, and Fahad Masood chipped in with 41, but they could not prevent a defeat to Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited in Sheikhupura. Set 462, HBL started the day at 135 for 4, and slid to 189 to 7. Raza and Masood then combined for an 83-run stand, but both fell to Abdul Razzaq, the ZTBL captain. HBL folded for 303, lasting 47.1 overs on the final day. Razzaq took 4 for 48 to finish with nine wickets in the match - he also scored a second-innings 74. Eighteen-year-old medium-pacer Azhar Attari scalped 3 for 47.
Jahangir Mirza's second first-class century - both of which came in this game - helped Water and Power Development Authority to an eight-wicket win over Pakistan Customs in Sialkot. After having dismissed the hosts cheaply in their second innings, WAPDA had closed the second day at 59 for 1 in pursuit of 204. Mirza lost his overnight partner, Salman Akbar, with the score on 77, but combined with captain Aamer Sajjad for an unbroken 129-run stand. Mirza, who resumed on 25, ended on 101 not out - to add to his first-innings 135 not out - while Sajjad made an unbeaten 47.
In Faisalabad, defending champions Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited lost by two wickets to Pakistan International Airlines. SNGPL had secured the first-innings lead but were dismissed for 183 - Najaf Shah took 5 for 51 - in the second, setting PIA a target of 286. Yasir Hameed led the chase with a run-a-ball 73, with Fahad Iqbal and Shoaib Khan snr chipping in with 28 and 33. Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who has largely remained Pakistan's second choice to Kamran Akmal, boosted his prospects with his second half-century of the game. He made 61, but was one of four victims for legspinner Yasir Shah. However, Anwar Ali, the former Under-19 bowler, made 48 not out to steer them to victory. Although PIA, on 39 points, can still possibly tie for first place with NBP, their greater number of losses means they have no chance of making it to the final.
The contest between Lahore Shalimar and Karachi Whites ended in a draw in Muridke. Karachi, with an overnight lead of 140, pushed from 23 for 0 to 194 for 4 in 45 overs on the final day before declaring. Captain Khalid Latif, the overnight batsman, top scored with 105 not out. Chasing 312, Lahore were reduced to 68 for 3, but they managed to avoid losing further wickets, reaching 112 in 29 overs at stumps.
Group BThe battle for the top spot will go down to the final round after Islamabad completed a five-wicket win over leaders Sialkot at Diamond Club Ground. With Islamabad still to complete their first innings, the match seemed to be headed for a draw at stumps on the third day. They resumed on 354 for 9, and were bowled out for 361, a lead of 93. Islamabad's bowlers then prised out wickets quickly at either end of the fourth-wicket stand of 105 between Haris Sohail, who made a 63-ball 60, and Sialkot captain Mohammad Ayub, who played out 170 balls for his 65. The two took Sialkot to 136 for 3, but a flurry of wickets resulted in them being bowled out for 185 in 54.2 overs. The final four wickets fell for 10 runs in an innings which had four ducks. Saad Altaf took 4 for 62 off 17 overs, while Rauf Akbar and spinners Imad Wasim and Raheel Majeed finished with two each. Islamabad then made a mad dash to reach the target of 93 before close. Ameer Khan and Naeem Anjum made 30s as they wrapped up the win in 11 overs and with five wickets in hand. Sialkot have 51 points from nine games, while both Islamabad and Rawalpindi have 45.
Quetta moved out of the bottom position with a three-run win over Hyderabad in Mirpur Khas. Hyderabad, resuming on 148 for 5 in pursuit of 274, lost Lal Kumar with only two runs added to their score. However, their chances were kept alive with an 86-run stand between Hanif Malik, who added 50 to his overnight 25, and captain Pir Zulfiqar (41). However, three quick blows left them at 253 for 9. The last pair added 17, but with a win four runs away, Gauhar Faiz struck to leave them short. Faiz and fellow opening bowler Nazar Hussain took four wickets apiece for the visitors. Hyderabad now find themselves at the bottom, but have one game left to move ahead of Quetta, who lead them by three points.
Despite a lead of 340 at the start of the day, Faisalabad batted on till they were dismissed in their second innings, leaving Peshawar with hardly any overs to force a result in in Sargodha. Resuming on 220 for 4, Faisalabad lost overnight batsman Usman Arshad early, but Naved Latif scored a brisk 81, off 88 balls, and No. 10 Zulqarnain smashed 50 to extend the lead past 500. Their second innings ended on 396, with 176 of those scored in 38.5 overs on the final day. Peshawar medium-pacer Nauman Habib picked up 7 for 119. Chasing 517, Naved Khan and Israrullah scored half-centuries and put on 142 for the opening wicket. Israrullah was unbeaten on 75 as Peshawar finished on 153 for 1.
Karachi Blues needed only 23.3 overs on the fourth day to complete a 202-run win against Multan in Karachi. Multan, resuming on 44 for 4, were bowled out for 133. Overnight batsman Zulfiqar Babar top scored with 31, and two lower-order batsmen went past 20. Both Tabish Khan and Tabish Nawab picked four wickets in the innings - Nawab bagged his maiden ten-wicket match haul in first-class games.
Captain Adnan Raees' 159 helped Abbottabad bat out the 76 overs on the final day for a draw against Lahore Ravi at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground. Abbottabad, trailing by 150 on the first innings, began on a shaky 73 for 2. The next wicket, though, fell only after they had gone past 300. Rahimbaz Khan put on a 240-run stand for the third wicket with Raees, but fell four short of his maiden first-class ton. Ghulam Mohammad made an unbeaten 40 as Abbottabad closed at 378 for 5.
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