December 11, 2009 is a day Zulfiqar Babar will never forget. Having taken five Islamabad wickets on the second day, Babar carried on his march and recorded a ten-wicket haul at the Multan Cricket Ground. His stunning achievement outdid the previous individual bowling record for Multan, the 9 for 93 taken by Mushtaq Ahmed against Peshawar in 1990-91. In Pakistan's overall best bowling performances in first-class cricket, Babar's achievement ranks third behind Naeem Akhtar's 10 for 28 for Rawalpindi Blues against Peshawar in 1995-96 and Shahid Mahmood's 10 for 58 for Karachi Whites against Khairpur in 1969-70.
Islamabad came into the third day on 229 for 5 and finished with 418, a total impossible without the efforts of Ashar Zaidi. As Babar applied remarkable pressure from one end, Zaidi took toll of the lack of menace from the other six bowlers and batted himself to an unbeaten 130 from 173 balls. Along the way he found assistance from Imad Wasim (28), his captain Rauf Akbar (39) and the No. 10 Fakhar Hussain (25). Babar was simply relentless, plugging away 39.4 overs - the next best was 19 overs from any bowler - for a record 10 for 143. It surpassed his previous best of 7 for 97, against Sialkot earlier this season, by some distance. Babar now has 66 first-class wickets this season at 15.43. In the 36 overs remaining, Multan reached 100 for 2.
Five wickets from Sadaf Hussain allowed Rawalpindi claim an 11-run lead over Abbottabad, and an unbeaten half-century from the opener Naved Malik extended that to 90 by stumps on the third day in Islamabad. Abbottabad had made a poor start to their first innings on the second evening, and Sadaf ensured they would struggle today. Partnerships were the key to trying an attaining a lead but Abbottabad struggled to find any; they owed much to Khalid Usman's unbeaten 52 down the order. Junaid Khan took the new ball and nipped out two quick wickets but Malik's brisk innings carried Rawalpindi to 79 for 3, setting up an intriguing final day.
Lahore Ravi set themselves a target of 229 on the final day after dismissing Peshawar for 199 in Lahore. Peshawar's bowlers kept the pressure on Lahore Ravi and didn't allow any large partnerships to form, but by the 82 runs that the last five wickets managed proved crucial. Peshawar's aim was to set up a formidable total but that was put back by the efforts of the medium-pacer Mohammad Irshad, who with six wickets sliced down the top and middle order. From 100 for 1, Peshawar slumped to 105 six. That stunning capitulation, after the opener Adil Amin hit 60 from 55 balls, was followed by Azam Jan (54) attempting to get a recovery going. It never quite happened, and a wicket just before stumps brought a close to the innings.
Forced to follow-on as the third day began at the Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad did better than their first innings and batted to 291 for 7 by stumps. A deficit of 283 was negated and a lead of eight was achieved, but Sialkot were eying a win on the final day. There was only one half-century in the innings, that of Sharjeel Khan (60), and that told for Hyderabad. Eight bowlers were used to try and wrap up the win on day three, but only Faisal Rasheed with 4 for 61 made much impact.
Centuries from Ali Asad and Khalid Latif - in fine form - ensured Karachi Blues remained utterly dominant at the National Stadium against Quetta. Karachi resumed the day wit a lead of 234 and were carried by Asad and Latif's 225-run stand for the third wicket. A declaration at 324 for 3 left Quetta needing a monumental 495 to win and they closed on 93 for 2.
Zohaib Shera's hat-trick in National Bank of Pakistan's second innings continued Karachi Whites' dominance on the third day in Karachi. The day began with Afsar Nawaz batting on to an unbeaten 121 and Babar Rehman falling two short of his century as Karachi Whites finished on a massive 486. Then came a manic burst with the new ball from Shera who, after Babar Rehman snared an early wicket, rocked NBP with the wickets of Nasir Jamshed, Imran Javed and Naumanullah with the score on 9. From the depths of 9 for 4, NBP were resuscitated back into a semblance of respectability thanks to an unbeaten 178-ball 70 from Mansoor Amjad and 49 from Amin-ur-Rehman. At stumps NBP were 184 for 8, with Karachi Whites two wickets from their third victory.
Pakistan Customs eked out a 25-run lead over Water and Power Development Authority on day three in Islamabad, thereby negating the pressure of defeat and setting up what seems a draw on the final day. A 253-run stand between Bilal Khilji (150) and Ali Azmat (128*) allowed WAPDA declare at 391 for 6, a lead of 271, and press for a win. However, Customs did not fold as meekly as they had in their first innings. The openers Jibran Khan (61 from 63 balls) and Zeeshan Ali (68) put on 83, after which Hassan Adnan scored an unbeaten 53 to ease the nerves before stumps.
Azhar Ali's unbeaten 153 was the story of the day in Rawalpindi. From an overnight 75 he batted on to an 11th first-class century and got Khan Research Laboratories to 352 for 5 declared, a lead of 215. Following that, Sui Southern Gas Corporation made it to 96 for 2 in 28.1 overs before stumps. Still 119 runs adrift of safety, SSGC face a day of hard work.
Zohaib Khan, the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited opener, batted the entire third day at the Jinnah Stadium. From an overnight, he stonewalled his way to 98 not out in the 79 overs of play and at stumps ZTBL were 241 for 8; 203 runs had been added to the total. The captain Imran Nazir walked out with Zohaib in the morning and was the first wicket to fall, after hitting 73 from 77 balls with five fours and four sixes. That was as quick as the scoring got, and the next highest score after Zohaib's was 16 from 74 balls from Shakeel Ansar. ZTBL lead by nine with a day to play.
Pakistan International Airlines secured a first-innings lead of 126 over Lahore Shalimar, scoring 303, and by the time stumps rolled around at the Gaddafi Stadium that had slipped to 50. Kamran Sajid (57) and Shehzar Mohammad (70) did most of the scoring for PIA as young fast bowler Mohammad Naved snared five wickets. No large stands were formed by Lahore Shalimar's batsmen and they finished the day on 76 for 3.