Karachi Urban took another step towards toppling Rawalpindi from the top of the Gold League table as they piled up 506 for 5 declared on the second day of their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League match at the National Stadium . By the close of play, Rawalpindi had reached 122 for 3, still 357 away from averting the follow-on.
Hasan Raza, the captain, hit an unbeaten 108 and Mohtashim Ali 67 in a 149-run fifth-wicket stand after overnight centurion Saeed Bin Nasir fell for 107. Raza, 24 and playing in his 139th first-class match, notched up his 27th hundred off 140 deliveries with the help of nine fours and two sixes. Asif Zakir (79) added 193 with Nasir.
Rawalpindi progressed to 87 before three wickets fell for seven runs. Babar Naeem, the left-handed batsman, was unbeaten on 73, with14 fours and a six off 87 balls in just under two hours. Captain Mohammad Wasim has still not come out to bat, but Rawalpindi's task to save the match is a difficult one.
Karachi Urban, currently placed at number three in the seven-team Gold League table with 15 points, are in the ideal position to take their tally to 24 with an outright win and move to the top of the table.
Playing like true champions, last season's winners Sialkot transformed their poor situation on day one by taking their overnight 212 for 6 to an impressive 384 on the second day at the Jinnah Stadium . In reply, Lahore Shalimar had slipped to 139 for 6, with 96 required to make Sialkot bat again.
Khalid Mahmood, Sialkot's wicketkeeper was the man mainly responsible for the turnaround. Coming in at No.9, he first saw his partner Ayub Dogar leave the field with an injury. At 258 for 9, Ayub returned and the two proceeded to add an incredible 126 for the last wicket. Khalid remained unbeaten on 93, after being in sight of his first-class career's third century, that came off a mere 110 balls in a little over two hours with nine fours and three sixes. Ayub, 28 overnight, had earlier helped add 67 for the seventh wicket with Tahir Mughal (31). He was last out, after having made 81 off 259 balls with eight fours and a six. Tahir then bagged 4 for 70 in Lahore's innings, with only Ahmed Shahzad (52 off 115 balls) and Ashraf Ali (35*) offering resistance.
Sialkot, with 12 points from their previous three matches, should now be looking towards an outright win so as to remain in contention for making the Gold League final.
The chances for last season's runners-up Faisalabad lifting themselves from the bottom of the seven-team Gold League brightened, as they gained the crucial first-innings lead against Peshawar at the Iqbal Stadium. Having dismissed second-placed Peshawar for a modest 215 on day one, Faisalabad took their overnight 39 for 0 to 254 for 9 by stumps, a lead of 39.
The openers, Imran Ali (51) and Asif Hussain (48) added 94 before Ijaz Ahmed Junior hit an unbeaten 71 off 182 deliveries with ten fours. With a four-man attack, Arshad Khan, Peshawar's captain, bowled superbly to pick up 4 for 74 in 34 overs. Riaz Afridi, the medium-pacer, sent down 32 overs for a return of 3 for 88.
Champions in 2003-04 and runners-up during the two subsequent seasons, Faisalabad are trying desperately to avoid being demoted to the Silver League circuit.
Shoaib Khan,Quetta's left-handed opener, hit a century as his team gained a first-innings lead of 97 over Hyderabad on day two at the Niaz Stadium.
It was Shoaib's second first-class hundred and personal best as Quetta, resuming at an overnight 91 for 4, overhauled Hyderabad's 193 with an impressive total of 290. Shoaib batted for more than six hours, facing 253 balls and hitting six fours and a six. His fifth-wicket stand with Arun Lal (52) was worth 97.
Farhan Ayub, Hyderabad's in-form left-arm fast bowler, returned figures of 6 for 76, while Naseer Khan (42) and captain Faisal Irfan (35) chipped in with useful runs. In their second innings, Hyderabad were 1 for 37, still 60 behind.
Following Multan's poor show in their match against Islamabad yesterday, Abbottabad must have seen a flicker of hope to make the Silver League final as they gained a splendid 152-run first-innings lead over Lahore Ravi at the Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA) Ground . Having dismissed Lahore for 62 on the first day, Abbottabad resumed at their overnight 89 for 1 and managed 314. At stumps, Lahore Ravi had made 72 for 1, still 80 runs in deficit.
Fast bowlers Wahab Riaz (4 for 77) and Imran Ali (4 for 64) acquitted themselves well but Abbottabad prevailed on a fruitful day. Opener Mohammad Naeem, who top-scored with 54, took his second-wicket stand with Wajid Ali (42) to 53. Later, debutant Hammad Ali (45 off 85 balls with five fours) and captain Sajid Shah (30) added a crucial 92 for the seventh wicket, their stand being boosted by several extras. There were eventually as many as 40 of them, with fast bowler Wasim Khan conceding 10 wides and seven no-balls.
If Multan are beaten by Islamabad in their ongoing encounter, and Abbottabad win here, either side will have an identical record after five matches and a total of 21 points. Who goes on to meet Islamabad in the Silver League final will then be decided on the basis of net run-rate.
Instead of Multan improving their position, it was table leaders Islamabad who were looking for their fifth straight win in as many matches, as they finished with a 324-run lead on day two at the Diamond Club Ground .
In reply to Islamabad's 314, Multan folded for 153 and conceded a 161-run lead. Centurion Azhar Mahmood, the captain, took 3 for 45 for Islamabad and medium-pacer Bilal Asad excelled with figures of 4 for 13 in 11.2 overs. In Islamabad's second-innings 163 for 3 opener Raheel Majeed hit a 76-ball 71in just short of two hours, with 10 fours and three sixes.
With four wins and a full 36 points, Islamabad have already qualified for the Silver League final, scheduled to be played from February 7. Multan, second-placed in the five-team table, have 21 points but now appear to be in danger of losing their position to Abbottabad.
Saeed Bin Nasir
Azad Kashmir University Muzaffarabad