Alam century seals title for HBL
Habib Bank Limited 313 (Farhat 109, Masood 66) and 236 for 5 (Alam 106, Raza 54*) beat Pakistan International Airlines 228 (Sajid 90, Kaneria 4-66) and 319 (Fahad 84, Sajid 70) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Opener Aftab Alam anchored Habib Bank Limited's chase of 235 on the final day with a patient century, amid support from captain Hasan Raza and Fahad Masood, to set up their first title win since 1977-78. Pakistan International Airlines required seven wickets on the final day but Alam's determined innings helped tilt the scales from a precarious 56 for 3 on the third day to inflict on the opposition their first defeat in the competition in a game that mattered the most.
Alam and Masood, the two overnight batsmen, consolidated the advantage their team had enjoyed at stumps the previous day, working the ball around comfortably for singles and finding the occasional boundary. In the morning session, Alam collected fours through fine leg, and then drove Shoaib Malik to the deep-cover fence. Masood was less fluent, but the steady flow of ones and twos thwarted PIA's hopes of putting HBL's batsmen under pressure. Their only hope was to pick up wickets, and urgently given HBL were progressing smoothly. They got a lucky break when Masood, aiming for a single to mid-off, was caught short of his crease by a direct hit that made it 146 for 4. The elation, though, was short lived.
The scoring rate actually picked up with the arrival of Raza to the crease, and Alam continued to be ruthless when an opportunity was on offer. Raza kicked off his innings in streaky fashion, with an edge to the third-man boundary, but got into his groove soon after, punching Anwar Ali through the covers. Alam eventually ceded floor to Raza, giving him most of the strike and reaching his fifth first-class century in the process. He had batted in the middle order in the first innings and his promotion to the top in the second proved decisive.
Raza, meanwhile, stepped up by targeting the seamer Aizaz Cheema, striking him for two fours and then tore into him with victory in sight, reaching his half-century with three boundaries in four balls. Though Alam had been dismissed by then, Raza's attack hastened PIA's downfall. Kamran Hussain finished the game off in the 79th over, driving Kamran Sajid to score the winning runs.
The day-night game was an unprecedented event in Pakistan first-class cricket and was not without controversy. The match was hotly-contested with lots of chatter between the players and even accusations of ball-tampering; the trigger for the uneasy atmosphere on the field, though, appeared to have been poor umpiring for a major part of the game.