Undefeated teams maintain supremacy
Something had to give when the two undefeated teams in the group met. And predictably, the top-of-the-table thriller at the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy Ground witnessed Multan Tigers edge out Karachi Dolphins by one wicket. Batting first, Karachi Dolphins stuttered from the onset with forties from opener Adnan Baig and wicketkeeper Javed Mansoor propping them up to 164. Left-arm spinner Faisal Elahi picked up 4 for 33, while left-arm fast bowler Rizwan Haider assisted with three wickets. Multan fared no better with Mohammad Sami and Rumman Raees derailing the chase early on. Kashif Naved and Rizwan played their parts with brave thirties, but it was left to the last-wicket pair of captain Abdur Rauf and Zulfiqar Babar to see them home in the 44th over.
A classy hundred from opener Sharjeel Khan handed Hyderabad Hawks a four-wicket win against Quetta Bears at the Niaz Stadium. Captain Tamiur Ali led from the front with a well-compiled 81 after Quetta chose to bat, and was given able support by Sabir Hussain (53). The two put on 106 for the third wicket, but a disciplined bowling effort from Hyderabad kept them down to 243. An opening stand of 117 during the chase did not augur well for Quetta, as Sharjeel clubbed 13 fours and two sixes. Even as they had a few hiccups in the middle, Shahid Qambrani, who remained unbeaten on 55, eventually saw Hyderabad through with more then two overs to spare.
National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) tiptoed ahead of KRL into first place on the points table with a convincing seven-wicket win against whipping boys Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) at the Gaddafi Stadium. The win was largely set up by the bowlers, who did extremely well to clean up SSGC for 111 by the 38th over. There was to be no repeat of the four ducks during SSGC's innings, as the NBP openers made a rousing start, putting on 84 in quick time. Though they lost three wickets on the way, victory was complete by only the 15th over.
The two Alis - Azhar and Yasir - were the standout performers for Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) as they overcame Karachi Zebras by six wickets at the Khan Research Laboratory Ground. Right-arm fast bowler Yasir starred with the ball, picking up 3 for 42, as Karachi finished on 170 for 7 in the 28-overs-a-side game. But it was the opener Azhar who shone brighter as his quickfire 85 off 83 balls went a long way in securing the chase. He smashed eight fours and a six and KRL eventually sealed the win with nine balls to go.
The match between Habib Bank Limited and Lahore Eagles at the Diamond Club Ground was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Both teams got two points each.
Undefeated Sialkot Stallions continued their winning ways, galloping to a three-wicket win against Islamabad Leopards at the Jinnah Stadium. Left-arm spinner Nayyer Abbas was the wrecker-in-chief after Islamabad were invited to bat. He took 4 for 30 to pin down the opposition to 200. Even though right-arm fast bowler Shehzad Azam wreaked havoc early on in the Sialkot chase, calming knocks from the Maliks - Shehzad (50) and Adeel (47) - swung the advantage their way. The 103-run partnership for the fifth wicket dimmed Islamabad's hopes and Bilwal Bhatti (23 for 10 balls) ensured a quick end by the 37th over.
Rawalpindi Rams improved their chances of a semi-final berth with a thumping 108-run win against Faisalabad Wolves in Sargodha. Put in by Fasialabad, Rawalpindi notched up 305 for 9, thanks to composed half-centuries by Naved Malik and Babar Naeem and some late-order fireworks. Opener Mohammad Shahid lent a solid hand during the reply with 52, but once Zeeshan Asif departed for 64, the Faisalabad innings went downhill, as they capitulated for 197 in the 43rd over.
Lahore Lions finally got their maiden win when they beat fellow-strugglers Abbottabad Rhinos at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground. Being put in, Lahore could manage just 228, with Rana Adnan top scoring with 55 of 84 balls. But it was a spirited performance from the bowlers next up, that had Abbottabad on the backfoot from the start. With just two meaningful contributions from Ghulam Mohammad (45) and Mohammad Kashif (34), the target proved too big an ask and they collapsed 68 runs short.
A strong performance from Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited's top three batsman secured a comfortable nine-wicket victory against Pakistan Customs in Multan. Chasing 232 to win, opener Ali Waqas scored 50 before he was dismissed with the score on 85. His partner Naeemuddin made an unbeaten 103, while Misbah-ul-Haq cracked 75 off 72 balls, to secure victory in the 42nd over. Earlier, SNGPL new-ball bowler Samiullah Khan had taken 3 for 25 to help dismiss Pakistan Customs for 231 in the 50th over. Jibran Khan and Ramiz Azin made fifties but there was little coming from any of the other batsmen.
Water and Power Development Authority completed a four-wicket victory in Bahawalpur thanks largely to their bowlers, who dismissed Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited for only 210. Atif Ashraf scored 66 off 78 balls for ZTBL but the WAPDA bowlers worked their way through the batting order without allowing partnerships to develop. Kashif Raza took 1 for 25 from 8.5 overs while Umaid Asif and Imranullah Aslam took two each. There were no substantial innings from WAPDA's batsmen either but several useful contributions, along with Jahangir Mirza's 56, were enough to reach the target in the 37th over. Ali Azmat finished the chase in a hurry, smacking 33 off 14 balls with seven fours.