Rawalpindi, Islamabad secure final berths
Islamabad booked a berth in the QEA final, against Rawalpindi, by thrashing Karachi Whites by an innings and 28 runs in Islamabad.
Asked to bat, Karachi Whites produced only one fifty, from Asif Zakir (67), as they were restricted to 249 by Shehzad Azam (4 for 124), Hamza Nadeem (3 for 51) and Mudassar Ali (2 for 59). Hundreds from Zeeshan Ali (167) and Imad Wasim (139*) helped Islamabad put on a massive 478 for 4 before declaring. A five-for from Azam in the second innings meant Karachi Whites barely crossed the 200-run mark and gave Islamabad 10 crucial points with which they jumped from the bottom to the top of the Group A table.
Karachi Blues fell just short of making it to the final despite beating Peshawar by four wickets in Karachi. They ended with nine points, one short of Islamabad's 10, but were level with Karachi Whites and Peshawar. Karachi Blues were benefitted by an all-round effort from the players even though they conceded a first-innings lead to Peshawar.
Put in to bat, Peshawar had fifties from top-order batsmen Iftikhar Ahmed (56) and Mohammad Idrees (63) but no other major contributions from the middle or lower order. Medium-pacers Adeel Malik and Rajesh Ramesh took four and three wickets respectively. Karachi Blues narrated a similar story with the only substantial contribution coming from opener Naved Khan (88) - the rest of the batsmen struggled to take them close to Peshawar's score. Medium-pacer Afaq Ahmed took four wickets for 45 runs.
But then, a collective effort from the Karachi Blues bowlers restricted Peshawar to 134 on the third day. Their batsmen then chased 190 with four wickets in hand, led by an unbeaten 84 from Yasir Hussain and 45 from Fakhar Zaman. The six points earned weren't enough to take them to the final though.
Rawalpindi, who started the round at the top of Group B, progressed to the tournament's final despite not taking a point off Multan, in Islamabad. Rawalpindi were even in danger of losing the game at one point. They held on for the draw, after conceding the first-innings lead, meaning they were tied on points with Lahore Shalimar but still topped the group based on a superior net run rate. The final is scheduled for January 23 to 27.
Left-arm pacer Nasir Malik picked up a five-for to ensure Multan did not get away to a huge first-innings total, but Rawalpindi's batsmen flopped to cede any advantage built up by their bowlers; only one batsman got past 20 for them, as they folded for 102 in little over a session. Multan's new-ball pair of Aamer Yamin and Kumail Abbas were the destroyers-in-chief, claiming nine between them.
Multan's top order was shaky in the second innings, but three half-centuries from the middle order ensured Rawalpindi were chasing over 400. Twenty-year-old opener Adnan Mehmood, in only his second first-class game, scored a hundred to lead the effort to knock off 430. While a few of his team-mates also got starts, they could not kick on, and several failed, meaning he was fighting a lonely battle for the most part. The second highest score came from No. 8 Haseeb Azam, who made 86. However, regular wickets dented their chances and in the end it was left to Nos. 10 and 11 to hold on for the draw, which they did. Play ended with Rawalpindi 85 short of their target.
Lahore Shalimar, needed victory to book their place in the final, but with the first day's play washed out against Sialkot, they were always in a race against time. Despite them batting at a brisk rate all through, and also declaring their first innings closed, they could only draw. They did manage three points for the first innings lead, but it was a close run thing - opener Imran Butt scored a century to lead them to 328 for 7 declared before Sialkot, courtesy a ton from Salman Ali, fell just 15 short of lead. That they didn't get it was in large part due to seamer Abdul Matin, who took 4 for 68.
In their second innings, Lahore Shalimar got to 4 for 186 before play was called off. Their three points brought them level with Rawalpindi on the points table, but it was just not enough.
*16.30GMT, January 19: The report had said earlier that Lahore Shalimar had qualified for the final, not taking into account net run rate. This has been corrected.