HBL 106 for 5 (Raza 37*, Kamran 16*, Asad 3-38, Samiullah 2-24) trail
SNGPL 351 (Hafeez 69, Misbah 64, Adnan 54, Kamran 4-99) by 245
A star-studded Habib Bank (HBL) batting line-up crumbled against the pace of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines' (SNGPL) opening bowlers on the third day of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final. Chasing SNGPL's first-innings total of 351, HBL were reduced to 48 for 5 before a rescue act by Hasan Raza (37*) and Kamran Hussain (16*) took them past the 100-mark on another day affected by bad light.
HBL were in trouble from the start, with the left-arm pace and movement of Samiullah Khan causing several play-and-misses. Humayun Farhat did get off the mark with a streaky edge past four slips and a gully but an inswinger from Samiullah soon trapped him plumb in front. Younis Khan, with 751 Test runs in 2007, failed in his first outing in the new year. A similar dismissal to that of Farhat saw HBL slide to 24 for 2, soon to become 28 for 3 with young Asad Ali forcing Rafatullah Mohmand to edge one to Adnan Akmal.
With the ball zipping off the surface, Shahid Afridi provided brief entertainment - a flicked boundary through midwicket and a punched cover drive off the back foot - before an inside edge saw him back too. A pumped up Asad then broke through Aftab Alam's defences and leave HBL in complete tatters at 48 for 5.
Raza, joined by Hussain, then opted to attack their way out of trouble. A bowlinf change eased some of the pressure as Raza punched one over midwicket and then square-drove another before Hussain followed with two boundaries through point. With HBL requiring another 46 to make SNGPL bat again, much hope rests on this pair to guide them through a tough morning session.
Earlier, Misbah-ul-Haq completed a fine half-century as SNGPL began aggressively after 15 overs were lost in the morning session due to bad light.
Misbah and Khurram Shehzad latched on to anything short and wide and scored heavily in the first five overs of the day. Misbah was once again a treat to watch; to the ball pitched up, he leant into his cover drives or flicked through midwicket and when pitched short, he dispatched the ball to the point boundary. Ten fours in his 64 was evidence of his intent.
Fahad Masood shifted momentum suddenly as he brought the ball in from wide of off-stump and beat Shahzad for pace. With Misbah refusing to be bogged down by the seaming ball, Masood was driven past midwicket for a four followed by a fierce cut past point for another. However, demons in the pitch got the better of him as another Masood delivery kept low and hit Misbah plumb in front.
Adnan Akmal, SNGPL's wicketkeeper, then rescued his side with a resilient fifty and was especially severe on Danish Kaneria who, apart from three late wickets, was lacklustre through the innings. He slog-swept Kaneria past midwicket twice and frequently cut past point and gully. Even Abdur Rehman - the left-arm spinner who captured eight wickets against South Africa on Test debut at this ground - was not spared.
Akmal was ably supported by Imran Ali (17), SNGPL No. 8, who became Kaneria's first victim of the day following a rash stroke. Kaneria then trapped Akmal leg before with a googly before coming in for some rash treatment off the bat of Samiullah. The last three wickets added a valuable 75 to the total, a contribution that could very well decide the outcome of the match.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo