Ball dominates bat again, but just
Wickets continued to fall at the Union Bank Limited sports complex, where Aizaz Cheema's six-wicket haul proved decisive in garnering Pakistan International Airlines a handy lead. Having been dismissed for just 200 on day one, PIA allowed Habib Bank Limited's openers to go into stumps on 24 for 0. Then Cheema took over after Najaf Shah opened the doors with two early wickets. He ran through the lower order to finish with 6 for 52 and if not for Shahid Afridi's 80-ball 73 HBL would have had to settle for far less than 171. Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, collected seven catches behind the stumps. The HBL spinners Afridi and Danish Kaneria struck back to reduce PIA to 77 for 3, but by then a potentially crucial lead of 106 had been established.
Medium-pace again dominated in Rawalpindi. First Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited's Asad Ali snared 5 for 51 to help bowl Khan Research Laboratories out for 133, thus securing a 12-run lead, but a spectacular collapse triggered by Yasir Arafat followed. Arafat, who took four wickets in the first innings, ran through SNGPL with 6 for 36. He removed the openers for 0 apiece and, backed by Shoaib Akhtar's two wickets, reduced SNGPL to 94 for 8 at stumps. How crucial their lead of 106, in a match where ball has outdone bat, will turn out to be remains to be seen. Asad Ali's wickets had accounted for KRL's middle and lower middle order, but Arafat's ten for the match left the game wide open.
Mohammed Naved's eight wickets pulled Lahore Shalimar back into the game and Abid Ali's maiden first-class hundred helped them inch towards stability at the Gaddafi Stadium. From an overnight 270 for 5, Water and Power Development Authority were kept to 330, with Naved taking career-best figures of 8 for 128. Nawaz Sardar could only add 20 to his overnight century and there was little resistance from the lower order. Lahore's innings began poorly - they were soon 19 for 2 - but Abid Ali added 92 with Suleman Khan (25) and an unbeaten 77 with Raza Ali Dar (31 not out) and took the total to 188 for 3 at stumps. His unbeaten 101 consumed 141 balls and included 16 boundaries.
Wajid Ali's slow century and useful contributions low down the order from Shehzad Butt (40) and Haaris Ayaz (57) got the total to 390, and three National Bank of Pakistan wickets capped a good second day for Sui Southern Gas Corporation in Karachi. SNGPL had made slow progress on day one, scoring 251 for 5, and Wajid came out in the same vein. His 101 took 241 deliveries but also smoothed over a double loss at 281, and Butt and Ayaz dug in to get the score close to 400. Fawad Alam, the Pakistan allrounder, struck thrice to finish the innings. But NBP proceeded to lose three of their own in a flurry, and slumped to 17 for 3. The openers failed to score, and when Naumanullah departed for 9, NBP were in trouble. Cue an attacking, unbeaten 106-run alliance between Umar Amin (60 from 60 balls) and Alam (50 from 50) but, trailing by 267, NBP are still far from safety.
Half-centuries to their top order enabled Karachi Whites take an 87-run lead over Pakistan Customs on day two at the Quaid-e-Azam park, where Karachi resumed on 43 for no loss and the openers Asad Shafiq (73) and Ali Asad (70) extended the stand to 139. A wobble followed, with Fawad Khan taking 4 for 10 with his part-time medium-pace. Khalid Latif, the Karachi captain, stuck around to finish the day unbeaten on 66 and found support from Javed Mansoor to add 70 for the sixth wicket.
More joy for the medium-pacers at the Marghzar Cricket Ground, where 16 wickets fell on day two. From an overnight 148 for 9, Multan were taken to 187 thanks to Mohammad Irshad's 33. Then Rawalpindi were bowled out for 121, Abdur Rauf taking 5 for 39 and every other bowler also succeeding in striking. But then Multan's batsmen combined to flop again, slumping to 50 for 6 by stumps. The wrecker-in-chief was the first-innings hero Rizwan Akbar, who took his tally to ten for the match so far with 5 for 22. No batsman applied himself - top-scorer Sohaib Maqsood's 20 needed 19 deliveries - and Multan would be unduly putting plenty of pressure on their bowling attack if they fail to build on a 116-run lead.
Matters improved somewhat for Group B's table-toppers, Abbottabad, who restricted Islamabad to 234 and then whittled the deficit down to 49 by the close of play at the Diamond Club Ground. Having crumbled to 163 on the first day, Abbottabad turned in a tidy bowling effort. There were not massive hauls or destructive spells, but the wickets were shared and no home side batsman was allowed to cross 50 bar the opener and captain Raheel Majeed (57). Ghulam Mohammad and Usman Khan, Abbottabad's openers, scored 31 without loss in the 17 overs remaining in the day.
Sialkot made good progress against Hyderabad at the Jinnah Stadium. The day didn't start their way, as the opener Aqeel Anjum moved from 86 to 104 and Nasir Awais (44 not out) helped Hyderabad from 197 for 7 to 252, but an efficient response helped it get better. Kamran Younus (89) and Naeemuddin (69 not out) put on 139 for the first wicket and then Bilal Hussain contributed 43 in a 90-run association for the second. Sialkot finished on 238 for 2, within striking distance of taking a first-innings lead.
At the National Stadium, Shaizab Hasan's 156 helped Karachi Blues take a 151-run lead over Lahore Ravi. Azam Khan struck twice early in the morning to unsettle a promising start, but Hasan, the Karachi captain, notched up his maiden first-class century. It was largely a one-man effort - Hasan faced 172 balls and hit 23 fours and three sixes and no other batsman crossed 48, thanks largely to Azam's 5 for 82. However, constructive efforts from the lower order took Karachi to 373 for 8.
Faisalabad dominated the second straight day against Quetta at the Iqbal Stadium, where the captain Ijaz Ahmed jnr's unbeaten 229 prompted a declaration at 447 for 8. Ijaz, who had represented Pakistan four times in the middle-to-late 1990s, batted 318 balls for his stellar innings, and Mohammad Salman made 90. Confident with the total, Ijaz declared the innings and looked on as his medium-pacers struck early to leave Quetta 80 for 3.