Pakistan cricket will sorely miss their United Bank Limited team

Ehsan Adil is one of several young players that UBL have nurtured over the last few seasons AFP

While Saad Ali celebrated Pakistan's win at Lord's, a lot will have gone through his mind. This is his first tour with the national team. A great domestic season, followed by a national call-up, and a potential debut at Headingley might have constituted the best of times, but there were rumblings back home in Pakistan that it might be the worst of times too.

What he wouldn't have known at the time was that his livelihood might be under threat. A day after the win at Lord's, reports circulated that United Bank Limited (UBL) had decided to close down their cricket operations.

This decade of Pakistan's domestic cricket has been defined by three departments. The behemoth at the top has been Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL). Under Misbah-ul-Haq, they have become the Bayern Munich of Pakistan in first-class cricket. Not since Karachi in the early '90s has a team dominated the domestic game as much as they have. They have won the title in five of the past six seasons, and have done so while being a team more in Misbah's image than even his Test team ever was.

It began with Misbah and his Faisalabad cohort (led by Mohammad Hafeez), and two youngsters in Yasir Shah and Azhar Ali, who have since gone on to become Pakistan's best long-form players in their respective disciplines. In the intervening years, SNGPL have brought in Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan from Peshawar, and attracted the best regional/department players from elsewhere, signing Mohammad Abbas, Asad Shafiq and Shadab Khan in the last two years. With those signings it seems that even with Misbah likely to go upstairs, they are ready to rule over the domestic game for a few more years in their disciplined, hard-working way.

Two teams have challenged them over the last couple of years. The first of those was Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) - the only team apart from SNGPL to win the title in the last six seasons. While SNGPL are built on discipline - to the point that they fine players for not being punctual for training sessions - WAPDA have attracted more old-school Pakistani players. Their rise in recent years was led by the signings of Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Irfan, and most recently, Wahab Riaz. Add to those five names Zulfiqar Babar, who has been with WAPDA since 2010, and you have enough to win at the domestic level in all conditions.

WAPDA followed SNGPL's model of attracting established performers. Their team's in this season's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final only had one 23-year-old (Khushdil Shah); eight of their XI were over 30. SNGPL had only one player under 25 in the final - Mohammad Rizwan (since Shadab was playing the Big Bash at the time).

UBL, meanwhile, have a history of developing young players. Their 1988-89 team had a trio of then uncapped players by the names of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Waqar Younis (more on their history here).

Starting from 2015, under coach Nadeem Khan and captain Younis Khan, they signed the best young players in Pakistan: Ehsan Adil, Sohaib Maqsood, Sharjeel Khan, Hammad Azam, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Nawaz, Saad Ali, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal and Sameen Gul.

With the exception of Sohail and Wahab (who left for WAPDA last year), all the rest are under 30. In the last three seasons, UBL and WAPDA have both finished in the top four. The private sector bank, which runs the UBL cricket team, has also become one of Pakistan cricket's major sponsors, and was the title sponsor for the World XI tour to Lahore last year.

UBL, unlike most other departments, has its own first-class ground, in Karachi, and one of the best academies in the country. Shan Masood, Rumman Raees, Sharjeel Khan and Mir Hamza are all products of that academy.

They even won a domestic one-day title earlier this year - going unbeaten - even though they have traditionally not been a great limited-overs side.

So from the outside, you would think their future in cricket seemed robust. But it looks like the final of the Department One Day Cup 2018 might have been the last time we saw the UBL side in action. Last month, the bank announced a 63% decline in its profit for the first quarter of this year, from Rs 7.25 billion to Rs 2.64 billion (from US$6.27 million to $2.28 million approximately). As is the case with financial or capitalist institutions throughout the world, it was time for "downsizing".

Still, even with this reduced profit, the cost of running the UBL team for a whole season would be only 0.2% of UBL's annual profit from 2017 - not the revenue, just the profit, mind. But such is the situation in a country where the domestic game is built around departments rather than regions: you never know when it will be all over, and there's nothing you can do about it.

For Saad Ali, it's time to think of the future. It won't be surprising if he finds an offer from SNGPL in his inbox.