Misbah helps SNGPL seize advantage
SNGPL 351 and 145 for 4 (Misbah 71*, Shehzad 29*, Kamran 3-26) lead HBL 192 by 304 runs
Misbah-ul-Haq rescued Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) from 14 for 3 with a fluent, unbeaten half-century and drove home the advantage at close on day four of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final.
Dismissing Habib Bank Limted (HBL) for 192 in their first-innings, SNGPL had gained a valuable 159-run first-innings lead, one that will be enough to win them the tournament if all four innings are not completed. However, Kamran Hussain, HBL's left-arm fast-bowler, dismissed Mohammad Hafeez on the first ball of SNGPL's innings and added the scalps of Umar Akmal and Azhar Shafiq - off consecutive deliveries - to bring excitement back into the match.
Misbah, first with Yasir Arafat and then with Khurram Shehzad, not only stabilised the innings but also managed to drag the lead in excess of 300 to put his side in a commanding position. Following his 64 in the first innings, Misbah was once again composure personified. Defence was his prime weapon against the swing of Kamran while the other bowlers, especially the erratic Danish Kaneria, were often dismissed to all corners of the ground.
Although streaky at times, Misbah cut, drove and flicked with ease. He brought up SNGPL's 50 with drives past midwicket and one wide of mid-on, much to the relief of the dressing room. Post tea, however, Misbah was a changed batsman. He drove Kamran through extra cover on one knee, pulled Kaneria through midwicket and drove Afridi down the ground for valuable boundaries.
Even the loss of Arafat failed to deter Misbah as he found a useful ally in Shehzad who, on the back of a memorable season, seemed adamant to partner Misbah ably. Even though Shahid Afridi brought back Kamran for two more spells, Misbah - the backbone of the Pakistan batting line-up in the last few months - didn't budge.
Earlier, much depended on HBL's overnight combination of Hasan Raza and Kamran, and both batsmen set off towards their first target - avoiding the follow-on - in an aggressive manner. Hasan drove Asad Ali through the covers twice in the second over of the morning before an edge evaded a diving wicketkeeper as ten came off the over.
Two more edges came off Hasan's bat in Asad's next over - while one dropped short, Shehzad dropped the second at third slip. However, Hasan regained his composure and dispatched a wide delivery over point to reach his half-century. An inswinger from Samiullah Khan, however, beat his bat and struck him in front of the stumps. Dismayed at the umpire's decision, Hasan trudged off and with him HBL's hopes of matching SNGPL's total.
Imran Ali, bowling with much pace, dismissed Abdur Rehman for 3 and followed that up with the wicket of Kamran who made a composed 38. With Asad forcing an edge off Fahad Masood's bat in the last over before lunch, HBL seemed down and out of the final. Until Kamran intervened, that is.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo