The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) batsmen put their team in a strong position and gave them the possibility of victory, on the third day of the four-day, Group A, third-round Patron's Trophy match against Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), here at the National Stadium on Saturday.

After KRL had attained a big 120-run first innings lead over PIA, the Airliners ran up a solid score of 429 for 6 in their second innings yesterday. Faisal Iqbal, the captain, then applied closure, setting KRL a target of 310 and his own team a realistic chance of a win.

Peshawar's talented Yasir Hameed, who scored 57 runs in the final one-day international for Pakistan against England at Rawalpindi on Wednesday, had made his intentions known with an unbeaten 61 on Friday as the PIA second-wicket stand in the second innings was worth exactly 100 by the day's close. Yasir lost his overnight partner Kamran Sajid (60) with only 16 runs added, but he continued piling up the runs with great credit. His knock of 139 was the 11th hundred of his first-class career, having come in five hours and 43 minutes' batting off 231 deliveries with 20 fours.

With Bazid Khan (20), his third-wicket stand was worth 64 runs. Another 81 runs were added for the fourth wicket with his youthful captain Faisal. The latter, who turns 24 on December 30, also reached his career's 11th century. Faisal scored 114 runs off just 160 balls in three hours 19 minutes with 15 hits to the ropes and three above them. After Yasir's departure, he was helped by all-rounder Jannisar Khan (26) in an invaluable partnership of 73 runs for the fifth wicket. With Asif Mujtaba, the veteran left-hander and the top-scorer of the first innings with 44 not out, unable to bat due to a fractured finger while fielding, Faisal decided to declare the PIA innings closed. KRL had made no runs in the only over bowled till the close of play.

PIA, who shared the Patron's Trophy title last season with Habib Bank as the final was rained off, drew their previous match in the ongoing competition against the same opponents, which turned out to be a tall-scoring affair. PIA have never won the Patron's Trophy outright since it was introduced back in 1972-73. Habib Bank have been the winners a record seven times. KRL are currently lying at rock bottom in the five-team Group A points table. They started the tournament by being beaten in both their matches in the first two rounds. If they go on to win on Sunday, PIA will collect only six points though.

Set to chase a target of 325 runs to win the match, Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited(SNGPL) had lost three second innings wickets in reaching 118, by the close of play on the third day of their four-day, Group A, third-round Patron's Trophy match against Habib Bank, here at the United Bank Limited (UBL) Sports Complex Ground No.1 on Saturday.

Habib Bank, after having gained a big first innings lead of 125 runs, crashed to a second innings total of 199 all out yesterday. SNGPL though are still 207 runs short of a victory with seven wickets in hand. Imran Khalid, a 21-year-old slow left-arm bowler from Kasur who also plays for Faisalabad, again got among the wickets as he captured 4 for 63 for SNGPL to follow his first innings 5 for 72. He was ably assisted by another young man, Asad Ali, who took three wickets for 56 runs in 12 overs.

Mahmood Malik, the fast bowler, also bowled well with figures of 2-19 in nine overs. Most Habib Bank batsmen just threw away their wickets but Younis Khan, the Pakistan vice-captain, and Humayun Farhat, the wicketkeeper, both got half-centuries. Their sixth-wicket stand was worth 79 runs after five wickets had fallen with just 89 on the board. Younis, after making 44 in the first innings, followed it up with a knock of 54 runs, off 108 balls with seven boundaries. Humayun's 52 were made in his characteristic, bludgeoning manner. He faced only 48 deliveries and sent the ball to the ropes seven times.

After the early loss of Mohammad Hafeez, the opener, SNGPL prospered through an innings of 34 off 52 balls with four fours by his partner Sohail Idrees. Youngster Sufyan Munir is still at the crease with an unbeaten 58, made off 90 deliveries with seven fours. As long as he and Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, are at the crease, their team are in with a chance. Otherwise, Habib Bank should be able to win today (Sunday). Abdul Rehman, their left-arm spinner, with figures of 8-53 on Friday, has already completed 10 wickets in the match with two more yesterday.

Habib Bank have been a record seven-time winners of the Patron's Trophy Championship title, in addition to sharing the trophy with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) last season after the final was rained off. SNGPL started this season's tournament with a creditable draw against Pakistan Customs in the second round.

Riaz Afridi, Peshawar's 20-year-old right-arm fast-medium bowler, returned first-class career-best figures of 7 for 78, as National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) were bowled out for a poor total of 161 runs, on the third day of their four-day, Group B, third-round Patron's Trophy Cricket Championship match against Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), at the Sheikhupura Stadium on Saturday.

After the opening day's play on Thursday was cancelled due to foggy conditions and poor light, NBP reached a modest score of 123 for six in the 34 overs possible on the second day. Four of their six wickets had already fallen to the young, talented Riaz Afridi. His partner Tahir Mughal picked up the three wickets at a personal cost of 67 runs in 22 overs. Riaz bowled 24.2 overs for his seven-wicket haul. The only player to bat with some conviction yesterday was Mansoor Amjad, the the teenaged allrounder,whose 44 runs at number seven came with five boundaries off 96 balls.

In the 12 overs bowled by the NBP bowlers by the day's close, PTCL had lost one wicket in making 26 runs. Their main intention on the final day today (Sunday) would surely be to take first innings lead and the three points on offer.

PTCL are currently perched on top of the points table with a tally of 15 in Group B. National Bank, five-time winners of the competition, are at the second spot.

Adil Nisar, the captain, hit the highest score of his first-class career as the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) compileda total of 446 for 5 declared, on the third day of their four-day, Group B, third-round Patron's Trophy match against Service Industries, at the Iqbal Stadium on Saturday.

Adil, the 27-year-old, left-hand batsman from Lahore, who began yesterday at his overnight 145 not out in WAPDA's first innings 268 for 2, took his tally to an eventual 232, off 343 balls in eight minutes short of eight hours while hitting as many as 33 fours in addition to a six. By the close of play, Kashif Raza, the fast bowler from Sheikhupura, had captured all four Service Industries wickets to fall, at a personal cost of 45 runs in 14 overs.

At 137 for four, with only one more day to go in the match, Service are still 160 runs short of averting the follow-on. In case they manage to hold on for a draw, WAPDA are sure to gain the three first innings lead points from this encounter. Adil, who now has three double-hundreds in his nine career centuries in 92 first-class matches, took his third-wicket stand with Aamer Sajjad from 142 to 194. Aamer hit seven fours and a six in his 81 runs, that came off 146 balls in a little over three hours. Bilal Khilji then hit a quick 39 runs off 38 deliveries with six boundaries, with Mohammad Irshad, Service's opening bowler, finishing with three wickets for 127 runs.

In the Service reply, Shahjahan Mirza, the opener and a newcomer on the scene, was still holding the fort with an unbeaten 42 with four fours at the draw of stumps. Faisal Khan meanwhile hit a worthy 61 with three fours and two sixes in two hours' batting.

WAPDA were the runners-up of the 2003-04 competition while Service Industries are currently placed at the bottom of the five-team Group B table.