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Pakistan International Airlines' ambitions of winning their first Patron's Trophy Championship title received a setback, as they finished the opening day of their match against Habib Bank on 167 for 7 at the Khan Research Laboratories Stadium.
On a day when more than 32 overs were lost due to fading light, PIA struggled against the pace bowlers. With Faisal Iqbal joining the Pakistan squad for the third Test against India in Karachi, their batting resources appeared uncertain.
Bazid Khan was handed over the captaincy in Faisal's absence. But the two PIA batsmen who managed to score some runs yesterday were among their tried and tested veterans. Opener Ghulam Ali top-scored with 79 off 150 balls and hit 12 fours and a six.
But four wickets fell with only 84 runs on the board. These included Pakistan batsman Yasir Hameed, returning after a bout of typhoid, Asif Mujtaba and Bazid. Ali was then joined by Mahmood Hamid for a 73-run stand for the fifth wicket. Mahmood's 36 came off 65 balls with four fours. PIA then lost three more wickets for 10 runs.
Like PIA, Habib Bank are also fielding with a depleted side. Hasan Raza, the captain, is not playing after injuring himself in the previous match. Also missing is Taufeeq Umar, the left-handed opener, and the team is being led by pace bowler Shahid Nazir. Shahid picked up 3 for 22 in 7.4 overs. Kamran Hussain, the left-arm fast bowler, took 2 for 25 from nine overs while Fahad Masood took one.
Last season, PIA and Habib Bank had reached the final of the tournament which was rained-off, and the trophy had to be shared. Strangely, although PIA have been Pakistan's national cricket champions on six occasions - having won the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy title - the Patron's Trophy has somehow eluded them for the last 33 years. Habib Bank, on the other hand, have claimed this championship on a record seven occasions.
National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), five-time champions, are playing against Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) at the Sheikhupura Stadium, but their final-round match now begins on Sunday. As they head the points table currently, a win for NBP would most probably keep them ahead of PIA on the basis of the net run-rate.