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March 26, 2009
Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) dealt a crushing blow to Habib Bank Limited's (HBL's) semi-final hopes with a nine-wicket win in Gujranwala. While Asad Ali was the wrecker-in-chief during the HBL innings with 4 for 25, brilliant eighties from openers Mohammad Hafeez and Ali Waqas helped SNGPL displace HBL from the top spot, with just one more round of matches to be played. Put in to bat, HBL stuttered from the start as wickets fell regularly. The biggest partnership was 41 for the fifth wicket between Younis Khan and captain Shahid Afridi, as Asad dented the top and lower orders. Hafeez, Imran Ali and Yasir Shah lent good support, picking up two wickets each as HBL were bowled out for 196. There was little joy for HBL while defending the total, as the SNGPL opening stand put on 189. The onslaught was severe as four of the six bowlers went for more than seven-an-over. Hafeez was especially aggressive, stroking nine boundaries and two sixes during his 72-ball 82. And even when he fell, Waqas' 102-ball 81, which comprised 11 fours and two sixes, ensured SNGPL cantered to victory in the 30th over as HBL collapsed to fourth place.
National Bank of Pakistan's (NBP's) six-wicket victory over the Karachi Zebras at the Gaddafi Stadium helped them draw level on points with table-toppers SNGPL and firmly stay in contention for the coveted semis spot. A whirlwind century from Salman Butt not only meant NBP overhauling the target of 213 in the 26th over, but contributed significantly in improving the net run-rate. Invited to bat, Karachi Zebras made a solid start with opener Akbar-ur-Rehman scoring 69. His 90-ball innings looked to have given Karachi the perfect start before the seamers, Uzair-ul-Haq and Mohammed Aamer, picked up four and three wickets respectively to hand the advantage back to NBP. Wicketkeeper Mohammad Hasan's composed 52 pushed Karachi to a respectable total. Butt showed no mercy to the bowlers during NBP's reply even as wickets fell around him. He continued undeterred and by the time he fell on 123, he had smashed 21 fours and two sixes during his 77-ball blitzkrieg.
Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) gave themselves a fair chance of making the semi-finals with a six-wicket win over the Lahore Eagles at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground. While captain Naved-ul-Hasan starred with the ball, fifties from Jahangir Mirza and Bilal Khilji helped WAPDA climb to third in the table. Electing to bat, Lahore made a disappointing start with right-arm fast bowler striking two quick blows. Reduced to 40 for 3, it was left to opener Ahmed Dar and Javed Hussain to steady the innings. They put on a 52-run stand before Naved removed Dar for 59. Javed battled bravely and went on to add another 54 with Muzammil Ikram (31). Javed played patiently for his 54, stroking three fours during his 90-ball stay, but could not prevent Lahore from finishing on a below-par 177. Even though Mohammad Naved gave WAPDA a scare during the chase, swiftly removing opener Shahid Yousuf and Shahid Siddiq, it was the 125-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Mirza and Khilji which steered them clear of danger. Khilji played the aggressor, scoring 64 off 65 balls, which included five boundaries and two sixes, but it was Mirza who took WAPDA home hitting three fours and two sixes during his unbeaten 71 off 104 balls.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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