The News

PCB to decide fate of Silver League final

Round-up of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches that took place on February 11

Silver League final
There was absolutely no play for the second day running, as the fifth and final day of the 49th Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Silver League final between Islamabad and Multan was washed out and declared a draw at the Gaddafi Stadium.
But this eventuality was not enough, because there was no winner, the first-innings issue remained unresolved and no decision could be made as to which of the two sides gets to be promoted to next season's Gold League circuit.
Now, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Domestic Committee, headed by former Pakistan batsman Shafiq Ahmed, is supposed to get together for a meeting for a final decision in this regard.
Heavily depleted by the absence of Rao Iftikhar, their captain, and Azhar Mahmood, away national duty in South Africa, Islamabad were totally dominated by Multan in the match. Shoaib Akhtar was in town, but as he is nursing a hamstring problem and now, apparently, needs knee surgery also, could not present himself for selection to the Islamabad team.
Multan rattled up 514 for 9 declared in their first innings against the toothless Islamabad bowling attack. Then, they had their opponents at 212 for 5. As five-day rules applied here, and a team could be forced to follow-on when finishing 200 behind, Islamabad still needed another 103 to avoid batting again.
With the last two days washed out, the teams had waited from the end of Friday's third day for the game to start again. According to a PCB spokesman, the Domestic Committee meeting will ponder over three eventualities to resolve the issue.
The first would be that the final will be replayed, as requested by the Islamabad Cricket Association (ICA), when Islamabad can again call upon the services of its missing players. The second option is that the issue be decided on the basis of points earned by teams in the Silver League preliminary round.
In five matches, Islamabad earned 39 points as against Multan's 21. Based on this, Islamabad would be the Silver League winners and progress to next season's Gold League circuit.
The third option is that the Silver League trophy be shared by both Islamabad and Multan, as is the case in abandoned matches where the first-innings issue remains unresolved. For the purposes of elevation, a limited-overs match would then be played between the two sides and whichever teams wins gets to go to the Gold League.
The PCB could even be tempted to declare the team, which had scored more runs in 60 overs, as the winners. Islamabad made 212 for 5 in 60 overs chasing Multan's 514 for 9. In this case, Multan would be the winners and earn promotion too.
Gold League
As the seventh and final round matches approach, the calculations as to which two teams will make the final of the 49th Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League have all gone topsy-turvy. While at the start of the sixth round the position had appeared quite clear -- a sort of two or three-horse race only -- now as many as four of the seven teams are in contention for the decider that would give the winning side the domestic cricket title.
After the matches that ended on Saturday, with rain forcing no play in two of them -- at Lahore and Sialkot - the position of Faisalabad, champions in 2003-04 and runners-up during the last two seasons, suddenly got upgraded.
At the National Stadium, they beat Karachi Harbour by an innings and three runs. This win raised Faisalabad's points tally to 18 and brought them from sixth place to the fourth. Rawalpindi are the only side to have completed their six-match schedule. They won, lost and drew two matches each, with a total of 21 points. They are not in contention for the final any more.
Sialkot, defending champions, displaced Karachi Urban from the top of the Gold League table, but rain brought an end to their match at the Jinnah Stadium when they were only 38 runs short of the win target with nine wickets in hand. There was no play on the last day and, instead of the full nine points, they had to be content with just three first -innings lead points.
Thus, both Sialkot and Karachi Urban are now tied on 24 points each, though Sialkot are ahead of Karachi. A tally of 30 points would have assured Sialkot a place in the final, that's scheduled to be played from February 19 to 23.
Now, if Faisalabad beat Karachi Urban in their final round match at the Iqbal Stadium Faisalabad outright, they get to a total of 27 points. If somehow, Sialkot are beaten by Karachi Harbour at the National Stadium, the position of last season's champions would be in some jeopardy.
In this scenario Peshawar -- champions twice before in 1998-99 and 2004-05 -- have a great opportunity to lift themselves from their current fifth position into the top two, if they defeat bottom-placed Lahore Shalimar in Peshawar to raise their own tally to 27 points.
The positions at the end of the table could also be altered if Lahore Shalimar somehow beat Peshawar instead and Karachi Harbour are defeated by Sialkot, as predicted. The Lahore team would then avert demotion to next season's Silver League circuit and Karachi Harbour would be the side to be relegated.
Most probably, Sialkot and Faisalabad -- as was the case last season -- would be the two teams in the final. Yet, these two sides could be Karachi Urban and Peshawar also. At the same time, Lahore Shalimar have a good enough chance to save themselves from being demoted.