Cheema leads PIA fightback after Farhat century
Habib Bank Limited 280 for 8 (Imran Farhat 109, Cheema 3-74, Sajid 2-34) lead Pakistan International Airlines 228 by 52 runs
The tea break came to Pakistan International Airlines' rescue on the second day at the National Stadium in Karachi. Just when it looked like Imran Farhat's century was going to take the game away from them, left-arm seamer Aizaz Cheema and their captain Kamran Sajid sparked a middle-order collapse that saw Habib Bank Limited lose six wickets for 28 runs in the last session and left the game finely poised at the end of the day.
HBL still managed build a lead of 52 thanks to a rearguard action by fast bowler Fahad Masood, but PIA will hope they can knock off the two remaining wickets tomorrow and then improve on their first-innings batting performance to set HBL a decent total.
At the tea break, HBL were cruising. Farhat and his captain Hasan Raza had put together 104 for the third wicket and they were already within 14 runs of PIA's total with eight wickets still remaining. It came down to Cheema, who has led PIA's bowling attack almost single-handedly at times this season, having taken more than twice the number of wickets any of the other bowlers have, to make the breakthrough
He got one to nip back in sharply from outside off to Raza, in the first over after tea, and had him out lbw for 38. That suddenly opened the floodgates for HBL. Sajid, who had only bowled one three-over spell in each of the first two sessions, brought himself back in the attack and struck in his third over, bowling Aftab Alam for a duck with an inswinger. In his next over, he got the big one: Imran Farhat was struck in front of middle stump, swinging across the line, but he was unlucky as the ball had pitched well outside leg stump.
PIA built on their luck, though. Cheema went on the rampage, bowling wicketkeeper Humayun Farhat with another late inswinger and then startling Danish Kaneria with a short ball that he could only fend to short leg. By the time Kaneria went, HBL were suddenly 242 for 8, only 14 ahead of PIA, when at tea they would have been dreaming of a lead of well over 100. PIA would be slightly disappointed they didn't finish the job as tail-enders Masood and Mohammad Aslam saw off nine overs with the new ball at the end of the day.
Before the dramatic collapse, Farhat had played a well-paced innings. Having come to the wicket in the fourth over after Kamran Hussain fell early, he started off slightly scratchily - three of his first four boundaries were thick edges to the third-man boundary - but settled in once the spinner Shoaib Malik came on to bowl, picking him for boundaries on either side of the wicket. He favoured the off side against the quicks, driving and cutting as HBL built a solid foundation for a big score.
Unfortunately for Farhat, HBL's scorecard looked very similar to PIA's first-innings one: one batsman scoring big while the others struggled. For PIA it had been Sajid, and for HBL none of the middle-order players could build on Farhat's start.