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KARACHI: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) made history on Tuesday by reaching their maiden final of the Patron’s Trophy Grade-II cricket tournament after the last-four fixture against Sabir’s Poultry finished in a tense draw in Rawalpindi.

The tension at the Pindi Cricket Stadium kept mounting as no less than 18 wickets fell on the third and final day before the HEC, who had earned a narrow first-innings lead of six runs, learnt at 6:15 pm — the time enthralling second semi-final came to an end — that they would now take on the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in the four-day final at the same venue from Thursday.

The SBP, in contrast, had made it to the title-decider on Monday in less than two days of play by virtue of annihilating Navy by a crushing margin of an innings and 172 runs at the Diamond Club Ground in the federal capital.

Resuming their second innings at 37-0, Sabir’s Poultry had no choice but to throw their bats around in the hope of contriving an outright result. Their play almost came off in the second half of the day.

In 38.4 overs Sabir’s Poultry added 169 runs to the overnight score before they were dismissed for 206 with opener Imran Dogar emerging as the top-scorer with a 54-ball 37 (two boundaries).

Ali Zaryab scored 27 off 34 balls while striking three fours. Skipper Imran Nazir, the former Pakistan opener, failed to follow up his scintillating century — 110 off 111 balls — of the first innings when the right-hander was caught by Arsalan Zia off paceman Sharoon Siraj for only six.

Tailender Nisar Ahmed, however, used the long handle to good effect as he hoisted three sixes and hit a brace of fours in a breezy 36 from only 21 deliveries. He put on 41 for the eighth wicket with Asif Fawad (20 off 43, two boundaries).

Paceman Mamoon Riaz was the most successful wicket-taker for the HEC with figures of 5-67 in 18 overs with Sharoon capturing 3-27 in his nine overs.

Sabir’s Poultry needed wickets upfront as the HEC began their second innings with a target of 201 in front of them. But Imran Nazir’s side was thwarted by a second-wicket partnership of 68 between Hammad Butt and Mohammad Faiq.

Hammad, who was first-innings’ hero with 172 in HEC’s total of 352, once again played a fine hand as the opener contributed 51. Hammad’s 54-ball knock included seven boundaries before he became one of four wickets for paceman Ghulam Rehman.

After Hammad departed, Sabir’s Poultry clawed back as the HEC nosedived from 70-1, losing seven wickets in the space of 41 runs before reaching 112-8 in 43.4 overs.

Rehman eventually finished with excellent return of 4-17 in 10 overs, while new-ball pair of Nisar (2-40 in 17.4 overs) and left-armer Manzoor Khan (2-53 in 16).

Scores and result on Tuesday (final day of three):

Semi-final:

At Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi: Match drawn.

SABIR’S POULTRY 346 in 80.5 overs (Imran Nazir 100, Irfan Haider 65, Imran Dogar 59, Yawar Bashir 38; Bilal Anwar 3-75, Asfand Mehran 2-67, Mamoon Riaz 2-84) and 206 in 43.4 overs (Imran Dogar 37, Nisar Ahmed 36, Ali Zaryab 27, Asif Fawad 20; Mamoon Riaz 5-67, Sharoon Siraj 3-27, Kamran Afzal 2-14); HIGHER EDUCATION COMMISSION 352-8 in 83 overs (Hammad Butt 172, Mohammad Faiq 79, Arsalan Zia 35, Sajid Khan 22 not out; Nisar Ahmed 5-112) and 112-8 in 43.4 overs (Hammad Butt 51; Ghulam Rehman 4-17, Nisar Ahmed 2-40, Manzoor Khan 2-53).

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2019