Lahore Blues pulled off a sensational one-wicket victory over Karachi Whites to clinch the 43rd Quaid-i-Azam Trophy Cricket Championship on the third day of the five-day final at the National Stadium on Monday.
The visitors held their nerves on a day of high drama to win only Lahore's fourth title. On the last occasion Lahore City won a low-scoring final, also by one wicket, inside three days was at Thatta in 1996-97 because debutant Abdur Razzaq claimed a career-best seven for 51 and then struck the winning runs.
On this occasion, it was another tailender, Waqas Ahmed, who had the satisfaction of striking the winning hit when he top-edged a pull just beneath the sightscreen for a boundary that brought the proceedings to an end at 5.40 p.m.
Karachi Whites had all but sealed the match when they had their opponents on the ropes at 66 for six. The target of 184 seemed a long way off at that point for Lahore Blues. However, from then onwards everything started to go wrong for the home side.
Wicket-keeper Humayun Farhat, a gutsy right-handed batsman, chanced his arms to wrest the initiative. Humayun, who turns 20 on Wednesday, lashed 63 off 53 balls with eight boundaries which changed the entire complexion of the match.
Luck also played a huge part in Humayun's daring innings. When he had reached 15 in his side's score of 96 for six he was caught and bowled by Sami off a no-ball. On 27, Humayun survived a vociferous LBW appeal when umpire Nazir Junior gave him the benefit of doubt. On 40, Mohammad Masroor floored a fierce cut in the gully off Sami.
Left-hander Mohammad Hussain also played an invaluable innings, slamming 29 off as many deliveries in a partnership that produced 63 off 51 balls in just 37 minutes.
Lahore Blues were lucky to have a man of Wasim Akram's vast experience coming to the crease at the dismissal of Hussain at 128 for seven. The former Pakistan skipper not only becalmed Humayun's exuberance but also struck some lusty blows in making 23 off 30 balls with four boundaries.
Akram was run out after the pair had put on 50 runs off 52 deliveries in 42 minutes. Humayun's luck finally ran out when he holed to deep mid-off with only five runs required.
Karachi Whites' strategy of playing only two specialists pacemen proved fateful. Mohammad Sami bowled a marathon first spell of 14 overs on the trot. Having sent down 24 overs barely 20 hours ago, it was asking a lot from the 19-year-old frail-built fast bowler. Test leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who bowled just one over on Sunday, was never utilized at all on a pitch that had hardened considerably on Monday.
Earlier, it was the formidable Test duo of Akram and Razzaq that had Karachi Whites in tatters. Akram captured three wickets each in two spells and never let any batsman face him with a degree of confidence. Swinging the ball both ways, the 34-year-old left-arm demon pacer returned splendid figures of six for 36 in 17.5 overs.
Razzaq bowled unchanged from the pavilion end to finish with four for 54 in 21 overs and gave the 21-year-old his his first match haul of 10 wickets in first-class cricket.
Karachi Whites may claim that they were at the receiving end of some questionable umpiring by Aleem Dar. Shadab Kabir had the mortification of bagging a pair but he was given caught behind when it was obvious that the ball had not hit anything on its way to the keeper. Zeeshan Pervez was struck in line of the stumps but only after he had got a thick inside edge.
Shahid Afridi was forced off the field when he struck a painful blow on his right elbow by Razzaq. He returned at the fall of fifth wicket but scored only two more before sliced a catch to cover.
Moin Khan batted the longest - 79 minutes - for a dogged knock of 18 off 55 balls with two boundaries until he fell to Akram with the score on 104. Kaneria bagged a pair by losing his middle stump off the very next ball.