KARACHI: While star Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali marked his return to competitive action with a fine century on Sunday, bowlers were generally on top at the start the Super Eight round in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy National Cricket Championship.
Despite Azhar’s heroics and that of his fellow centurion Khurram Shehzad, unheralded paceman Waqas Maqsood stole day one’s limelight with a career-best haul of nine wickets.
Waqas, the 30-year-old left-armer from Faisalabad, gave reigning champions Wapda early ascendancy by taking 9-32 in 16.3 overs as Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) mustered 95 all out after being put into by Salman Butt in the Group-I fixture at the SBP Sports Complex.
Waqas, playing his 49th first-class game and sharing the new ball with ex-Pakistan seamer Mohammad Asif, improved upon his previous best return of 7-40 for his native Faisalabad against Abbottabad at Swabi in January 2013.
Former Pakistan under-19 representative Jaahid Ali was the only KRL batsman to hang around long enough to score a 98-ball 40 in 137 minutes.
KRL, however, then struck back quickly to reduce Wapda to 27-6 as Sadaf Hussain (4-33) and Ahmed Bashir (2-23) rip apart the top order batting. But Aamir Sajjad (18) and Khalid Usman (41) dug in to put on 69 in their unbroken partnership to put Wapda in front at 96-6 when stumps were drawn for the day.
The other Group-I match provided lots of spills and thrills as Lahore Whites faced Lahore Blues — the only regional teams to make the Super Eight phase — at the UBL Sports Complex where 14 wickets fell.
After losing the toss, Lahore Whites were blown away in 47.2 overs for 141 in their first innings. At one point they were down in the mire at 80-6 but opener Rizwan Hussain scored 42 and tailender Mohammad Irfan 41 to give them some respectability.
Former Pakistan paceman Aizaz Cheema (4-43) and Bilawal Iqbal (4-42) shared the bowling honours.
Lahore Blues began shakily as they slumped to 56-4. However, opener Tayyab Tahir (71 off 10 balls, 10 boundaries) and skipper Saad Nasim (54 off 45, seven fours and one six) came the rescue in an unfinished stand of 94 as Lahore Blues reached 150-4 at stumps.
Seamer Umaid Asif, who dismissed Haris Nazar and Raza Ali Dar for ducks, has so far claimed three wickets for 54 runs.
In sharp contrast to the Group-I action, Group-II was largely dominated by batsmen, particularly the big match at the NBP Sports Complex where Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL were in control at 294-2 to nullify Habib Bank Limited (HBL) skipper Ahmed Shehzad’s decision to bowl first at the toss.
Azhar — who seems to have now recovered from a knee problem — registered his 33rd first-class century in his first match for almost two months by stroking 118 from 229 deliveries while opening the innings.
Skipper Mohammad Hafeez, who led Lahore Blues to National T20 Cup title last Thursday, hit seven fours in scoring a 46-ball 37 in the first-wicket stand of 57 with Azhar before being trapped by his ex-Pakistan team-mate Umar Gul.
Azhar, who decorated his 350-minute knock with 12 boundaries, and Khurram made the HBL bowlers toil as they put together a commanding partnership of 221 in 273 minutes before the Pakistan opener was caught by Imam-ul-Haq off Ammad Butt in the evening session.
Khurram, the 35-year-old right-hander from Faisalabad, also reached three figures — his 11th in 98 matches — before finishing the day on an undefeated 113 (225 balls, eight fours and four sixes). Partnering him was Test batsman Asad Shafiq on six when play was curtailed by fading light at 5:21pm.
Despite a fourth-wicket stand of 104 between left-handers Shan Masood (75 off 160 balls, six fours) and the in-form Saad Ali (52 off 90, eight fours), United Bank Limited (UBL) were dismissed for 252 after Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) skipper Fawad Alam elected to field first at the Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad.
Lanky paceman Ahmed Jamal was SSGC’s hero with figures of 6-34 in 17.3 overs. Among his victims was the retired Pakistan batting run-machine Younis Khan. Making his first appearance since the West Indies Test series in May, the rusty Younis scored just one run from eight balls before the UBL skipper’s 13-minute stay was terminated by a LBW verdict as the bankers slid to 46-3.
Pakistan speedster Sohail Khan, however, restored parity for UBL by getting rid of both openers, Sami Aslam (6) and Umar Amin (7), as SSGC limped to 31-2 by close of play.
Close of play scores on Sunday (day one of four):
Super Eight stage:
At UBL Sports Complex, Karachi: LAHORE WHITES 141 in 47.2 overs (Rizwan Hussain 42, Mohammad Irfan 41; Bilawal Iqbal 4-42, Aizaz Cheema 4-43); LAHORE BLUES 150-4 in 33 overs (Tayyab Tahir 71 not out, Saad Nasim 53 not out; Umaid Asif 3-54).
At NBP Sports Complex, Karachi: SNGPL 294-2 in 85.2 overs (Azhar Ali 118, Khurram Shehzad 113 not out, Mohammad Hafeez 37) vs HBL.
At SBP Sports Complex, Karachi: KRL 95 in 42.3 overs (Jaahid Ali 40; Waqas Maqsood 9-32); WAPDA 96-6 in 33.3 overs (Khalid Usman 41 not out, Aamir Sajjad 18 not out; Sadaf Hussain 4-33, Ahmed Bashir 2-23).
At Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad: UBL 252 in 79.3 overs (Shan Masood 78, Saad Ali 52, Hammad Azam 25, Gulraiz Sadaf 22, Umar Akmal 20; Ahmed Jamal 6-34, Kashif Bhatti 3-93); SSGC 31-2 in 6 overs (Sohail Khan 2-19).
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2017