KARACHI: While leaders Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) can afford to take it a bit easy after qualifying for the final of the President’s Trophy Grade-I National Cricket Championship, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will be extremely anxious to win convincingly both their remaining preliminary-round fixtures in order to make the cut at the cost of second-placed Habib Bank Limited (HBL).
Currently lying in third in the standings, 15 points behind HBL, PIA just not only need to defeat Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) at the latter’s home territory in Rawalpindi in the eighth round match which starts from Tuesday, but also fervently hope that HBL — who coincidentally meet SNGPL in this round at the Diamond Club Ground in Islamabad — lose their remaining games.
If this improbable scenario somehow works in their favour, with SNGPL winning the penultimate-round tie against HBL and PIA scoring maximum nine points, the national carrier will have to repeat the same exercise against Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and pray that Port Qasim Authority (PQA) deny HBL points in the last round of matches.
Coming to the penultimate round, the pick of five games scheduled is the HBL-SNGPL clash with a host of Pakistan stars on show with seasoned stalwarts Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq leading their respective teams.
A victory for Younis’ HBL against SNGPL will guarantee them playing the final against Misbah’s outfit after the conclusion of the Faysal Bank National Twenty20 Cup, which is expected to be played from Dec 2 in Karachi, to decide the champions of the inaugural edition of the new first-class competition on revised dates at a venue still to be finalised.
HBL, in fact, may feel in a comfort zone at the moment because even if they lose to SNGPL, they would still have another chance against PQA to qualify for the grand final.
The last two rounds of the President’s Trophy would be important are other teams as well despite the reason that the Pakistan Cricket Board, in their haste, has not yet revealed as to what will happen to the team(s) finishing bottom of the final standings.
Would they be relegated or the board will continue to the repeat the formula that is in place for the next domestic season as well.But in case, the PCB do make a late announcement in the media that the promotion/demotion system would apply then the likes of United Bank Limited (UBL), PQA or even Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) would not be competing at first-class level next home season.
At this point in time, UBL, who play ZTBL in the coming round, are last in the standings with mere three points.
Eighth-round schedule (Nov 20-23): State Bank of Pakistan v Water and Power Development Authority (Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad); National Bank of Pakistan v United Bank Limited (Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi); Khan Research Laboratories v Pakistan International Airlines (KRL Stadium, Rawalpindi); Habib Bank Limited v Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (Diamond Club Ground, Islamabad); Port Qasim Authority v Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (Marghazar Cricket Ground, Islamabad).
(Tabulated under played, won, lost, drawn, points) SNGPL 7 6 0 1 54 Habib Bank 7 6 1 0 48 PIA 7 4 1 2 33 KRL 7 2 3 2 21 Wapda 7 2 3 2 21 National Bank 7 2 3 2 18 State Bank 7 2 3 2 18 PQA 7 2 4 1 15 ZTBL 7 2 4 1 15 United Bank 7 0 6 1 3