SNGPL continue to dominate
There were no more strides in Misbah-ul-Haq's quest to make a national return as he fell for 20, but it was a day of dominance for his team Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) at the Sheikhupura Stadium. Ali Waqas (147) and Mohammad Hafeez (89) racked up 167 runs for the second wicket to punish Sui Southern Gas Corporation's (SSGC) bowlers. There was more hard work to follow in the field as Azhar Shafiq made a half-century to push SNGPL to 418 for 6, a massive lead of 258. Shakeel-ur-Rehman resisted by grabbing four wickets but couldn't extricate SSGC from a near hopeless situation.
It was a similar story at the National Stadium where Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) continued to be in charge of their game against Karachi Whites. Openers Khurram Manzoor and Agha Sabir piled on the runs; their 181-run stand was only 11 less than what the entire Karachi side managed in the first innings. Sabir fell two short of a century but Manzoor went on to make 133, his 12th first-class hundred. Shoaib Khan increased PIA's advantage with a brisk 68, helping them finish the day on 375 for 4, a handy lead of 183.
It was a much tighter affair at the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) ground, where the home team gained a slim 16-run first-innings cushion, by bowling out Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) for 243. Four of the ZTBL batsmen crossed 30, but none of them went on to make a big score, the highest contribution being Shahid Yousuf's 50. KRL managed to break through every time a partnership was developing, and were eyeing a much larger lead when ZTBL were 134 for 6. It was the fighting 79-run stand between Zulqarnain Haider and Zohaib Khan that helped ZTBL inch closer to KRL's total. Left-arm spinner Nauman Ali was KRL's most successful bowler, taking four wickets.
At the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground, it was evenly balanced between two teams still searching for their first win of the season. Lahore Shalimar fought back from their first-innings batting failure by knocking over Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) for 227 to keep the deficit down to a manageable 54. None of the WAPDA batsmen made a half-century; only two of them went past 30. Fast bowler Mohammad Saeed carried on the good work from the first day, striking regularly to finish with a career-best 6 for 82. Lahore's batsmen made a promising start to their second innings, Abid Ali (64) and Mohammad Saad (35) putting on 90 runs to take them to 121 for 1. Three quick wickets took the sheen off Lahore's day, and they ended on 139 for 4.
It was a gripping day in the top-of-the-table clash between National Bank of Pakistan and Habib Bank Limited (HBL) at the Gaddafi Stadium. Resuming from 60 not out, Qaiser Abbas carried on to fourth first-class hundred to take NBP to 412. His efforts, after coming in at No. 6, ensured the final five wickets yielded 167 runs, and frustrated HBL. Upcoming fast bowler Mohammad Talha added to HBL's troubles by taking three wickets in the space of six runs. They counterattacked through contrasting knocks from captain Hasan Raza, who blasted a 61-ball 64, and opener Taufeeq Umar, who remained unbeaten on a more patient 87. Two more strikes late in the day gave KRL the edge as HBL were still 205 runs behind going into the third day.
An interesting third day lay in store in the other match between table-toppers at the National Ground. Second-placed Rawalpindi seemed set to hand Karachi Blues their first defeat of the season after bowling them out for 152 (first-innings lead of 119) but led the initiative slip by folding for 161. The headlining performances came from two new-ball bowlers: Rawalpindi's Mohammad Rameez first snared 6 for 50 before the experienced Tanvir Ahmed did one better for Karachi, grabbing 7 for 70. Led by Zahid Mansoor's 57, Rawalpindi moved to 81 for 2 but lost their final eight wickets for 80 to leave Karachi a target of 281.
After seventeen wickets went down on the first day at the Diamond Club Ground, the second proved to be a little easier for the batsmen. No. 10 Fakhar Hussain decided they was no point trying to dab the ball around and hammered a career-best 50-ball 74 (at a strike-rate of 148, the next best in the first innings was 63) to give Islamabad a 52-run lead. Quetta's batsmen took the hint from Fakhar, three of the top four striking at 97 or above. Opener Shahzad Tareen was the top scorer with 70 and Ata-ur-Rehman celebrated his 23rd birthday with a more subdued half-century as Quetta reached a fighting 253 for 6.
It was a low-scoring encounter at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium. Again it was a fast bowler doing the damage, Sialkot's Naved Arif taking 7 for 66 to bundle out the home side for 178. Abbottabad's top order flopped - each of the first four making single-digit scores - and it was only Khalid Usman's unbeaten 55 that guided them to a face-saving total. Sialkot progressed to 49 for 1 in their second innings, an overall lead of 108, by the end of the day.
Hyderabad took the upper hand in their game against Peshawar at the Lahore Country Club. After finishing their first-innings on 284, they shot out Peshawar for 197 with the help of fast bowler Mir Ali's 5 for 80. Hyderabad reinforced their advantage by reaching 86 for 0 by stumps, the only blemish being opener Aqeel Anjum being forced to retire hurt.
It was slow going at the Iqbal Stadium, where Lahore Ravi crawled to 182 for 7 in response to Faisalabad's 321. Faisalabad were set for a bigger total after reaching 287 for 4, but the lower order provided little resistance. The wickets continued to tumble when Lahore batted; they slid to 38 for 3 before Javed Hussain's 49 revived them somewhat.