Customs in trouble after Habib Bank make 506
Pakistan Customs appeared doomed to be relegated to the non-first-class Grade-II circuit, as they finished the second day of their final round Patron's Trophy Cricket Championship match against Habib Bank still needing another 282 just to avert the follow-on.
After Habib Bank compiled a huge total of 506 in their first innings, Customs lost quick early wickets and ended the day at 74 for 3, a massive 432 runs behind their opponents.
Earlier, having resumed at their overnight 328 for 4, Habib Bank continued to prosper. Younis Khan carried his unbeaten 115 to an eventual 153, made off 260 balls in a little over six-and-a-quarter hours with 16 boundaries. His fifth-wicket stand with Farhan Adil produced 93 runs. Farhan made 55 with seven fours off 114 balls but Abdul Rehman, the left-handed allrounder, hammered 72 runs off 83 balls with 11 fours and a six as the score passed the 500 mark.
Amidst the carnage, Jalat Khan achieved career-best bowling figures of 6 for 128 in 36 overs. He thus attained his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.
The two top teams from either group are looking for qualification to the tournament's Quadrangular Stage round that gets underway from January 15. Habib Bank, the record seven-time winners of the Patron's Trophy, are currently placed second behind Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). They need a win in this match to stay as one of the two top teams in their group.
Customs are now faced with the real danger of being demoted. They have collected only six points from their three previous matches and find themselves placed at the bottom of the five-team points table.
An unbeaten century in successive innings by Mahmood Hamid lifted Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to the safety of a first-innings total of 384 on the second day at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Sports Complex.
However, Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) responded strongly and, by the day's close, their openers had reeled off 149 runs without being separated. Mahmood scored an unbeaten 143 as PIA, resuming at a rather inadequate 226 for 6, reached an eventual 384. He faced 272 balls in just over five-and-three-quarter hours while hitting 12 fours and a six.
Mahmood had hit 124 not out last Friday, when PIA defeated Pakistan Customs by an innings and 57 runs in a fourth-round match. In 171 first-class appearances, he has now compiled 22 hundreds.
With Tahir Khan (47 off 63 balls with four boundaries), Mahmood's seventh-wicket stand produced 92 runs. Another 62 runs were added for the ninth wicket with Imran Tahir (19). Imran Khalid took 4 for 115 for SNGPL.
With star fast bowler Umar Gul unable to bowl because of fever, SNGPL hit an impressive 149 for no wicket by the draw of stumps. Mohammad Hafeez, the former Pakistan player, made an unbeaten 72 off 144 balls with six fours. His partner Ayub Dogar hit seven fours and a six in his 66 not out that came off 100 deliveries. Ayub is playing in a first-class match after an absence of over a year.
SNGPL find themselves in an interesting situation. With nine points from their three previous matches, they need to win here to take their tally to 18, something which could even take them into the Quadrangular Stage ahead of PIA.
PIA, who have never won the Patron's Trophy but shared the title last seasin with Habib Bank after the final was rained off, currently have a total of 15 points. They too need an outright win to stay in contention for the next round.
There was no play on the second day running in the two matches in Peshawar and Sheikhupura. The sun came out after a bout of bad weather in the two cities, but the pitches at Peshawar's Arbab Niaz Stadium and the Sheikhupura Stadium were in no condition for play to begin at either venue.
In Peshawar, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) are waiting to start their match against Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) while top-of-the-table Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) are up against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in Sheikhupura.
WAPDA, who were the Patrons Trophy runners-up in 2003-04, are second with 12 points from three appearances. NBP, five-time winners of the tournament, are at third place with only nine points to the credit. They need an outright win over four-time champions ZTBL to stay in contention for the Quadrangular Stage round.
PTCL, who have a total of 18 points, have never won a national title. They too need a win, or at least a draw with three points, to retain their position or, at the most, they can afford to slump to the second spot in order to advance further.
If the poor playing conditions persist and no points are gained from the fifth and final round matches, then PTCL and WAPDA will qualify for the Quadrangular Stage round, that starts from January 15.
Service Industries, after having gained no points from their four matches of which they lost three and drew one, have already suffered demotion to the non-first-class Patron's Trophy Grade-II circuit. Ironically, they had qualified for the ongoing tournament after having won the last season's Grade-II championship.