Group-toppers stay in control
A quickfire century from wicketkeeper Humayun Farhat meant Habib Bank Limited (HBL) continued to dominate at the top of the table, picking up first-innings points against Pakistan Customs at the Diamond Club Ground. Even as the top and middle orders succumbed to fast bowlers Mohammad Haroon and Ahmed Jamal, Farhat coming in at No. 8, smashed 20 fours during his 105-ball 156 to anchor the HBL innings. The ICL returnee's 167-run eight-wicket stand with Mohammad Aslam proved crucial, and handed them the lead. Customs were 7 for no loss in their second innings at the end of the day.
Captain Yasir Hameed's sparkling unbeaten 130 dealt a serious blow to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited's (SNGPL's) hopes of a final spot as Pakistan International Airines (PIA) closed in on first-innings points at the Jinnah Stadium. Ali Imran added two more to his one wicket the previous day, as SNGPL ended on 265 from their overnight 227 for 6, with Ali Waqas left stranded five short of a well-deserved hundred. Hameed provided the impetus at the top of the order and put on a powerful opening stand of 193 with Agha Sabir (73). He went on the offensive, clubbing 17 fours and a six, shepherding PIA to 225 for 2 at stumps.
Sparkling centuries from Zohaib Khan and Shahid Yousuf handed Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) the lead against Karachi Whites at the United Bank Limited Sports Complex. Resuming on 20 for no loss, still 212 adrift of Karachi's first-innings total, ZTBL lost their openers without adding to the overnight score. But Zohaib and Yousuf combined well in a third-wicket stand of 202 to seize the initiative. Yousuf hit 16 fours during his 186-ball 104, while Zohaib was undefeated on 129, having hit 14 boundaries en route. Zohaib also put on 81 with captain Nazir (54) as ZTBL ended exactly 100 runs ahead.
If hundreds from Mohammad Wasim and Saeed Anwar jnr the previous day kept Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the ascendancy against bottom-placed Lahore Shalimar at the Gaddafi Stadium, 61s from Zahoor Elahi and Yasir Ali beefed them up further. The two combined for a sixth-wicket stand of 98, as KRL declared on 502 for 7. Barring opener Abid Ali (56), the Lahore batsmen struggled during the reply. Right-arm fast bowler Jaffar Nazir helped himself to the spoils, picking up 4 for 43. With half their side gone, it does look like an uphill task for Lahore, who are still 385 behind.
Saeed Bin Nasir led from the front once again as Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) put on an emphatic batting show against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) at the Sheikhupura Stadium. He brought up his 19th first-class century, hitting an identical number of boundaries en route, as SSGC powered their way to 466 having begun the day on 237 for 4. Shehzad Butt also chipped in with a valuable 88, while right-arm pace bowler Azharullah finished as WAPDA's most successful bowler with 4 for 134. The WAPDA openers successfully negotiated the five overs remaining in the day to end on 3 for no loss.
A terrific batting effort coupled with a disciplined effort from the bowlers put Karachi Blues in the driver's seat against Hyderabad in Mirpur Khas. Riding high on twin centuries from overnight batsmen Asad Shafiq and Wajihuddin, the No. 1 side on the points table were boosted further by Asim Kamal's 81. The 54 extras did not help the opposition's cause as Karachi declared on a huge 552 for 7. It was a sorry reply from Hyderabad, as fast men Mohammad Sami and Tanvir Ahmed picked up three wickets apiece to leave them choking at 59 for 6.
Sialkot's final ambitions appeared to be fading after they were under pressure against Islamabad at the Jinnah Stadium. Ashar Zaidi got to his double-century, smashing 34 boundaries and a six during his 253-ball 202. Naved Arif ended with a five-for but couldn't prevent Islamabad from crossing 400. Faisal Khan's 69 failed to inspire then other Sialkot batsmen during the reply, as Nasrullah Khan dented the batting line-up thrice to leave the home side tottering at 170 for 6, still 231 behind.
A defiant unbeaten 47 from wicketkeeper Mohammad Salman and a clinical job by the pace duo of Zahoor Khan and Ali Raza gave Faisalabad the advantage against Rawalpindi at the Iqbal Stadium. Resuming on 259 for 5, Salman ensured Faisalabad crossed the 300-mark easily. The stage was then set for the seamers during Rawalpindi's reply, as their openers departed in a hurry. Both Zahoor and Raza picked up two wickets apiece to leave the visitors struggling at 88 for 4, before Usman Saeed and wicketkeeper Jamal Anwar guided them safely to stumps.
Right-arm seamer Aamer Hayat's 6 for 77 may have lifted Lahore Ravi against Abbottabad in Muridke but they lost half their side by stumps, to keep the battle for first-innings points in the balance. Resuming on 236 for 5, Abbottabad could add just 43 as Hayat struck quick blows to wrap up the tail by the 15th over of the day. Left-arm Armaghan Elahi struck twice as Lahore's response got off on the wrong foot. But for a watchful unbeaten fifty from Sohail Ahmed and his 69-run partnership with Saadullah Ghauri (41) for the fourth wicket, Lahore would have been in serious trouble.
Well-compiled centuries from Rameez Alam and Naved Yasin helped Multan march to first-innings points against last-placed Peshawar at the Multan Cricket Ground. Beginning the day on 4 for no loss, the Multan pair were relentless in their pursuit of a lead. The unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 236 put Peshwar on the backfoot even as Imran Khan picked up two quick wickets. While Rameez hit 11 boundaries during his 246-ball 114, Yasin managed four more during his quicker-paced 118.