The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is back in Karachi after two seasons, as Karachi Blues outclassed Sialkot in a one-sided contest to win Pakistan's premium first-class tournament. Blues captain Khurram Manzoor credited the all-round effort of his side, which wasn't too formidable on paper, for the winning the title.
Although there were no fireworks or cheers in the deserted stands of Gaddafi Stadium, there was jubilant celebration by the players. When Manzoor lofted the ball to the midwicket boundary to score the winning runs, the Blues players, who were waiting at the boundary rope, erupted screaming onto the field to embrace their captain. They had another reason for joy: the team had remained unbeaten over the course of ten matches and two months.
"It was the moment we have been waiting for," Manzoor said while standing in front of a sombre Sialkot dressing room. "This is a result of the hard work put in by all of our players and the coaching staff. I am very happy as a player and as a captain - this is a significant achievement for me. They are all happy and want people to know that. I can't explain in words how happy I am and that's why we are screaming loud. This is all about the victory.
"We didn't have big names on paper but we played like a family. Sometime there were heated arguments, differences, we quarrelled on various occasions, but it was merely on how to attain the best result on the field. It was all teamwork. In the end, it is the result that matters, and so it's a moment of joy. I love to be a part of such a talented side.
"The key was the planning of our short-term goals instead of setting a big goal. We had a plan for each hour, each session to keep the players on their toes and didn't burden them to achieve bigger goal. The motto is to win every day to keep the momentum on, and this helped us against complacency. We knew if the plan worked the title wouldn't be far from us. If we have strong belief, we can win."
One of the key men who contributed to the win was Akbar-ur-Rehman, who topped the run-charts with 986 runs in ten games, with three fifties and three centuries, one of which was a double. He scored a century in the final, too; his 178 in the first innings helped his side gain a decisive 199-run lead.
"I simply call him a one-man army and I am proud of him," Manzoor said. "He played his role and his presence in the middle was a relief for me. He was the backbone of our batting and performed well when it matters and I wish him very best of luck for his future."