SNGPL and Rawalpindi keep winning
Mohammad Hafeez's five-for handed Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) a crushing win against Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) at the Sheikhupura Stadium. The innings-and-115 run victory was enough to ensure top spot temporarily on the points table, though National Bank of Pakistan picked up first-innings points against Habib Bank Limited. Continuing on 418 for 6 from the previous day, the SNGPL innings was brought to a quick end by the pace atrtack of Shakeel-ur-Rehman and Waqar Ahmed. It was a bright display by Shakeel who ended with 6 for 105. Behind by 297, it would take one superb individual display to keep SSGC in the game and Bilal Asad promised with 81. But having taken out opener Asif Zakir, Hafeez accounted for the middle order as the batsmen floundered against the spin. Fittingly, he picked up the last wicket, that of Waqar, as SNGPL completed the win in the 61st over.
A clinical display by the seamers, coupled with Imranullah Aslam's quickfire 85, gave Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) full points against second-from-bottom Lahore Shalimar with a day to spare at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground. Resuming on 139 for 4, Lahore failed to cope with the pace of the WAPDA fast bowlers, led by Sarfraz Ahmed and Shabbir Ahmed. Sarfraz picked up three wickets to finish with a match haul of seven while Shabbir bagged four. Though the WAPDA openers departed early chasing down 157, Imranullah went in search of quick runs. He blasted 18 fours and a six during his 59-ball knock and that fast-tracked the victory, which came in the 31st over.
Captain-wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed and Jannisar Khan put on a 108-run partnership for the fifth-wicket to give Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) a mammoth 240-run lead against Karachi Whites at the National Stadium. Karachi then went on to lose six wickets for 209 in their second essay with PIA looking good for a huge win. While Sarfraz scored an unbeaten 51, Jannisar was run out three short of a well-deserved half-century. Karachi needed a good start to overcome the massive deficit, but the early fall of Behram Khan did not help. Naved Khan scored 49 but the slow bowlers Jamshed Ahmed and Tahir Khan dented the opposition by taking three and two wickets respectively. Atif Ali held on with an unbeaten 42, but with little expected from the tail, avoiding the innings defeat will be his topmost priority.
It was slow going for Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) as they reached 182 for 6, starting the day at 5 for no loss against Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) at the Khan Research Laboratories Ground. The first-innings points they had gained may have played a major part in KRL's approach, after ZTBL fell short by 16 runs replying to 259. But that did not hold back the ZTBL bowlers, led by right-arm paceman Junaid Nadir. While there were a couple of thirties, captain Mohammad Wasim top scored with 44, before becoming Nadir's second victim. Nadir then had Bazid Khan caught behind for 13 just before stumps, to leave KRL on tenterhooks going into the final day.
Even though Taufeeq Umar's century and Abdur Rehman's well-compiled 85 failed to give Habib Bank Limited (HBL) first-innings points against National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) at the Gaddafi Stadium, the HBL bowlers put in a disciplined effort to ensure that they held the upper hand at the end of the day, reducing NBP to 121 for 7. Resuming on 207 for 5, Taufeeq brought up his century, but the battle was mainly fought by Rehman, who hit 10 fours during his 104-ball stay. It was legspinner Mansoor Amjad who picked up three crucial wickets to bowl out HBL for 353, 59 behind NBP's first-innings total. While Shahid Nazir did the early damage during NBP's second innings, the spin duo of Danish Kaneria and Rehman ran through the middle order, picking up two wickets apiece, to keep HBL's hopes of a win alive in this top-of-table clash.
Late-blooming 35-year-old fast bowler Rashid Latif captured seven wickets to hand Rawalpindi a 77-run in their top-of-the-table clash with Karachi Blues at the National Ground. After taking a vital 79-run first-innings lead in a low-scoring encounter, Rawalpindi seemed to have let the advantage slip after being bowled out for 162 and letting Karachi reach 70 for 0. Shahzaib Hasan dominated that opening stand and slammed four sixes on his way to 87, but Karachi folded after his dismissal. No one else in the top eight made it past 20 as Latif tore through the line-up. Yesterday's hero for Karachi, Tanvir Ahmed, slammed a 27-ball 50 coming in at No. 9 but that only helped them past the 200 mark but well short of the target of 281. The two teams are now locked on 27 points but Rawalpindi have played one match less.
In the only other Group B match to finish in the three days, Sialkot won by 136 runs at the Abbottabad Stadium after a frenetic day in which 19 wickets went down. The match followed a similar pattern to the Rawalpindi-Karachi game: Abbottabad fighting back after giving away a significant first-innings lead by bowling out Sialkot for 184 but the home team's batsmen let the side down chasing 244. Left-arm fast bowler Armaghan Elahi was on fire early in the day to reduce Sialkot from their overnight 49 for 1 to 73 for 6. No. 8 batsman Ahmed Butt (42) and No. 9 Bilawal Bhatti (29) staged a fightback to give their bowlers a target above 200 to defend. Faisal Rasheed was Sialkot's hero with the ball, taking 5 for 58, as Abbottabad folded for 107 in 37 overs. It all unravelled for Abbottabad when they lost six wickets for 17 runs after being 54 for 2.
In the basement battle between Islamabad and Quetta, the stage was set for an engrossing final day at the Diamond Club ground. It is still anybody's game: Islamabad need 33 runs, Quetta need two wickets. The match swung one way to the other through the day. After bowling out Quetta for 303, Islamabad were well on top when their openers took them to 97 in the chase of 252. It was Quetta's turn to take charge when they their new-ball pair of Nazar Hussain and Arun Lal took three wickets each in the space of 15 runs. Islamabad clawed their way back from 112 for 6 through the efforts of Ameer Khan (47*), and a pair of twenties from tailenders Fakhar Hussain and Rauf Akbar.
Hyderabad remained in control of their match against Peshawar at the Lahore Country Club. Middle-order batsman Shahid Qambrani was the mainstay of the Hyderabad second innings, making 83 to guide them to 281. They would have made an even higher total had it not been for the six wickets bagged by legspinner Mohammad Fayyaz, who polished off the lower order cheaply. Fayyaz's heroics continued with the bat as Peshawar faced a tough target of 369; opening the innings, he remained unbeaten on a brisk 71. There was virtually no support for him though, as Peshawar finished the day on 128 for 3.
A draw loomed as the likeliest outcome at the Iqbal Stadium. Lahore Ravi ended on 269 after their final three wickets consumed more than 32 overs, with Shahbaz Butt staying unbeaten on 67. Faisalabad had a slim 52-run first-innings cushion, and their openers increased the advantage by adding 147 runs. Zeeshan Asif was still batting on a cavalier 101, which included two sixes, but Imran Ali fell for a more patient 56. Faisalabad ended the day on 177 for 3, an overall lead of 229.