Bowlers dominate on first day
Shahid Afridi and medium-pacer Fahad Masood took three wickets each as Habib Bank Limited bundled out Pakistan International Airlines for 200 on the first day at the Union Bank Limited sports complex. Masood did the early damage after HBL chose to field, getting rid of the openers Khurram Manzoor and Yasir Hameed, cheaply. Several PIA middle-order batsmen got starts but only captain Shoaib Malik went on to a half-century, making 63. The spinners Afridi and Danish Kaneria made short work of the tail, nipping out the last four wickets for 12 runs. HBL's openers negotiated the 11 overs before close safely, taking the score to 24. Afridi was involved in controversy after reportedly getting into an altercation with a spectator.
It was a similar situation at the Quaid-e-Azam park where Pakistan Customs folded for 186 after choosing to bat against Karachi Whites. Offspinner Misbah Khan, making a comeback after more than a year, was the most successful bowler, taking 4 for 72. He ripped through a middle-order which had Mohammad Sami (first-class average 14.73, no half-centuries) batting at No. 6. Customs were bolstered by 40s from Rameez Aziz and Mohammad Hussain but none of the other batsmen made it past 30. Karachi ended the day on 43 for no loss off the remaining 21 overs.
In another match dominated by bowlers, Khan Research Laboratories shot out Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited for 145 in Rawalpindi. It was the quick bowlers who did the damage, with internationals Shoaib Akhtar and Yasir Arafat taking four wickets apiece. Misbah-ul-Haq was the only batsman to offer resistance, making 50 - the next highest scorer was Adnan Akmal with 19. SNGPL were at a relatively healthy 102 for 4 at one stage but contrived to lose their last six wickets for 43 runs. In reply, KRL lost captain Mohammad Wasim for a duck but recovered to finish on 32 for 1.
At the Gaddafi Stadium, Nawaz Sardar's maiden first-class century broke the day's trend of ball ruling over the bat. His 121 formed the centrepiece of bottom-placed Water and Power Development Authority's 270 for 5 against Lahore Shalimar. After Lahore chose to field, medium-pacer Mohammad Naved gave them the ideal start, dismissing the openers with only 25 runs scored. However, No. 3 Sardar found support from Aamer Sajjad (53), and the pair stitched together a 93-run stand to steady WAPDA. The experienced Bilal Khilji put on 63 with Sardar for the next wicket to improve their side's position further.
A similar script played out in Karachi, where Sui Southern Gas Corporation finished the first day on 251 for 5 against table-toppers National Bank of Pakistan. After NBP opted to field, their new-ball bowlers, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Talha, two of Pakistan's best young fast bowlers, got rid of the openers early. The middle-order started the recovery with a 70-run stand between Imran Abbas and Wajid Ali (93*). That was followed by a 140-run association between Wajid and captain Saeed bin Nasir (70) which put SSGC in a strong position. NBP ensured the day's honours were shared by taking two late wickets.
Group B's table-toppers, Abbottabad, had a much worse day at the Diamond Club Ground in Islamabad. They crumbled to 163 all out against Islamabad, with quick bowlers Rauf Akbar and Saad Altaf , sharing seven wickets. They got off to a decent start, their openers taking them to 37 for 0, but were dismissed cheaply because no other batsman, except No. 6 Iftikhar Mahmood, reached double-digits. It would have been even worse had it not been for the 45 extras Islamabad conceded, including an astonishing 25 no-balls from Shehzad Azam in his nine overs. In the eight overs Islamabad had to bat, their openers had taken the side to 30 for 0.
Multan's batsmen didn't have a day to remember at the Marghzar Cricket Ground. They were stuttering at 148 for 9 after being sent in by Rawalpindi. Rizwan Akbar was the chief destroyer, taking 5 for 45, and Mohammad Rammez chipped in with three wickets. Kashif Naved (30) and Gulraiz Sadaf (42) took Multan to 145 for 5, after their side had been at 58 for 4 at one stage. However, their good work was undone when Multan lost four wickets for three runs.
It was only a slightly better day for Hyderabad against Sialkot at the Jinnah Stadium. Despite opener Aqeel Anjum's patient unbeaten 86, they were in trouble at 195 for 7. Even that position needed a battling 78-run stand for the seventh wicket between Anjum and captain Pir Zulfiqar to rescue them from 92 for 6. No. 9 Nasir Awais then made a 19-ball 18 to boost the Hyderabad total towards 200.
Shahnawaz Malik made his maiden first-class century to push Lahore Ravi to 222 against Karachi Blues at the National Stadium. There was hardly any support for him, with Kashif Siddiq (34) being the only other batsman to cross 20. Medium-pacer Babar Rehman, playing only his fourth first-class game, was the most effective of the Karachi bowlers, finishing with 4 for 79. Left-arm spinner Adnan Kaleem, also playing his fourth first-class game, chipped in with three wickets. Karachi finished the day at 36 for no loss.
Faisalabad were the only batting side to put up a satisfactory display in Group B on the first day. On the back of Ijaz Ahmed jnr's unbeaten 93, they finished on 224 for 5 against Quetta at the Iqbal Stadium. They were also helped by the fact that Quetta's left-arm medium-pacer Zahoor Ahmed had to be taken off after bowling only 2.3 overs. Besides Ijaz, the other significant contributor for Faisalabad was Ammar Mahmood, who made a measured 47. Mohammad Aslam took four of the five wickets to fall on the day.