PIA staged a remarkable comeback to score a narrow nine-run victory over National Bank in the second semifinal of the National One-day Cricket Championship at Gaddafi Stadium here Tuesday night.

PIA, the former champions, were heading for certain defeat when National Bank were coasting along nicely at 170 for three in the 34rd over after being set a target of 224.

Imran Nazir celebrated his recall to Pakistan squad for Sharjah Cup with a cavalier knock of 95. But his dismissal started the slide from which National Bank never recovered as they lost seven wickets for 44 runs.

The bankers badly felt the absence of Pakistan vice-captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who made himself unavailable for family reasons.

Man-of-the-Match Imran, who was given a life by Ghulam Ali off Fazle Akbar in the slips when he was on eight, caught by Asif Mujtaba off off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq after striking 11 boundaries during his knock of 109 deliveries.

Wickets then fell at regular intervals with everyone chipping in. Wasim Akram, ace left-arm fast bowler, clean bowled Qaiser Abbas for nine and then had Shabbir Ahmed caught at the wicket by PIA skipper Moin Khan for two.

Azhar Mahmood, another player making a comeback to national squad, had the distinction of claiming the final wicket when he pierced through Mohammad Sami's defence for nine.

The only worthwhile partnership in National Bank's innings was provided by Imran Nazir and Naumanullah, who put on 73 for the third wicket.

Wasim Akram captured three for 42 in nine overs as the wickets were shared evenly by pacers and spinners. Saqlain claimed two for 46, Asif Mujtaba two for 43 and Shoaib Malik one for four. All-rounders Azhar Mahmood and Abdul Razzaq took one wicket.

Earlier, PIA mustered 223 for nine after Moin won the toss and decided to bat first in the day-night fixture.

Although eight batsmen got into double figures but none made more than Azhar Mahmood's 34 off 42 balls (one four). Ghulam Ali hit four fours while making 32 off 60 balls, Moin lashed 31 off 34 balls with four hits to the fence.

Pinch-hitter Shoaib Malik contributed 30 off 50 deliveries with the aid of two boundaries. Saqlain struck an invaluable 24 off just 19 balls with one boundary during the unfinished last wicket stand of 16 with Fazle Akbar.

Yousuf Youhana was out to a reckless stroke when he rushed out of the crease but was easily stumped by Kamran Akmal off ex-Test leg-spinner and National Bank captain Mushtaq Ahmed for 16.

Mushtaq turned out be the most successful bowler in the match with excellent figures of four for 36 in 10 overs.

Pakistan captain Waqar Younis conceded 41 runs in 10 overs. His only success of the match came in his third over when he had Faisal Iqbal caught for seven.

National Bank, winners of the one-day departmental crown last season, had to be contend with the losing semifinalists' purse of Rs 25,000.