KARACHI: Following in the footsteps of his elder brother and mentor Mohammad Sajjad, unseeded Mohammad Ijaz entered his name in the annals of the game by capturing his maiden ranking title, routing third seed Babar Masih 8-6 in the best of 15 frames final of the 10th National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) ranking snooker championship at the bank’s sports complex on Monday.
Trailing 2-6 at the 30-minute break, never say die Ijaz changed the complexion of the match with a resounding comeback winning the next six frames in a row to the sheer surprise of the spectators.
The 30-year-old Ijaz triumphed 43-63, 78-42, 21-83, 39-93, 94-20, 20-79, 58-67, 17-57, 68-45, 58-51, 56-40, 62-1, 58-2, 77-50.
By virtue of victory, Ijaz also avenged his straight defeat that he had suffered at the hands of Babar in the league match. Both the finalists were placed in group C with Babar emerging group champion and Ijaz runner-up.
In the run up to the success, Ijaz thumped Mohammad Asif Toba 5-1 in the pre quarter-final, blanked Aakash Rafique 5-0 in the quarters and fought courageously to whip top seed Mohammad Asif 6-5 in the semis.
“I was not expecting to do any miracle when I came here from Sargodha to compete in the annual event,” the 22nd ranked Ijaz told Dawn after the victory.
‘I’m thankful to Allah for bestowing the honour besides the prayers of my parents and tips by my brother -cum-trainer Sajjad,” he added.
He said during the break he realised that the match was slipping from his hands and rejuvenated efforts taking one frame after the other.
He said the maiden victory has givem him a leap of 17 places – fifth from 22nd — in the next national ranking list.
“I’ll work hard to maintain the performance in future also,” said Ijaz, who has married a month ago.
Babar attributed his defeat to missing the easy potting opportunities that came his way in the final.
“I succumbed to the pressure and failed to live up to the billing and expectation,” Babar, who has attained No 2 ranking told Dawn.
Ijaz did made efforts taking the second and fifth frames to reduce the deficit 2-3 before his opponent turn the encounter one way affair enjoying a commendable 6-2 lead with breaks of 62 and 81 in the third and fourth frames.
Needing only two frames to wrap up the match, Babar virtually gave up as determined Ijaz raced to pocket next six frames to create quite a stir. Ijaz conjured up a break of 54 in the 14th frame.
Ijaz received a winning purse of Rs1,00,000 and a glittering trophy from the NBP President Saeed Ahmed at the presentation ceremony that followed the final.
Babar earned a cheque of Rs40,000 and the runner-up trophy.
Incumbent national champion and Pakistan No 1 Mohammad Asif received a meagre purse of Rs5,000 for the highest break feat of 138.
Before awarding the prizes, the NBP chief cut the Independence Day cake amidst applause.
The ceremony was largely attended among others by the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF) officials, senior NBP staff, cueists and media.
Mohammad Ijaz (Punjab) bt Babar Masih (Punjab) 8-6 (43-63, 78-42, 21-83, 39-93, 94-20, 20-79, 58-67, 17-57, 68-45, 58-51, 56-40, 62-1, 58-2, 77-50).
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2018