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Faras Ghani in Karachi
January 11, 2008
As Shahid Afridi conceded the match from Habib Bank Limited's (HBL) dressing-room balcony, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) team, post the handshakes with the umpires and the departing batsmen, formed a huddle in the middle. No wild celebrations, no hugs, no team officials running onto the field to congratulate the team. It was for a good two minutes or so that Mohammad Hafeez, SNGPL's captain, spoke to his young team on a job well done. It was only after the verdict that there was a roar from the middle and plenty joined in at the boundary line.
With the prize ceremony out of the way, Hafeez was quick to point out that the success was all a team-effort. There was no Afridi, Danish Kaneria, Hasan Raza or Abdur Rehman, They did have Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq, who may have won them the final but according to Hafeez, the team owed much to the young guns that had carried them to the final after a convincing loss in the first match of the season.
"We started really badly," Hafeez told Cricinfo. "Losing our first match of the season [to PIA] was not the ideal of starts to the season. However, our young boys lifted their spirits from then onwards and here we are.
"It has been a total team effort. Our batsmen scored runs when it was required. Our bowlers took wickets where it was necessary. We all backed each other and stood up for one another. We were short on big names [Misbah was away on international duty] but the likes of Umar Akmal and Khurram Shehzad made it possible for the team to reach the final."
SNGPL impressive first-innings effort laid the foundations of the draw. Put into bat in overcast conditions, the team was guided past the 250-mark thanks to Hafeez and Misbah but then Adnan Akmal, the young wicketkeeper, scored a resilient 55 to enable his side to reach 351.
"Adnan played a very, very useful knock. It was a prime example of our players delivering when it was of the utmost importance. We were five down for under 250 and without Adnan's effort, taking such a big first-innings lead would not have been possible."
Satisfied with his own performance - he scored 69 in the first innings after three consecutive centuries during the last three matches - Hafeez was quick to praise Misbah, the Man of the Final.
"The return of Misbah made all the difference. He made a useful contribution in the first-innings and carried us to a decent score. However, second innings we were in a bit of a stutter at 14 for 3. What followed was simply amazing and to keep scoring runs the way he is doing is simply amazing.
"Obviously I would have loved to add a fourth consecutive century to my name, but winning the league with such a young team is something. I am more thrilled holding this trophy then having four centuries to my name."
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