KARACHI: Long-forgotten Pakistan batsman Fawad and former national skipper Sarfraz Ahmed shared the limelight as Sindh reached a competitive fist-innings total against Southern Punjab in their First XI Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fixture headed for a draw at the National Stadium.
Fawad led Sindh’s dominance with a brilliant double century which also enabled the 34-year-old to go past 12,000 first-class runs while Sarfraz made a welcome return to form by reaching three figures for the first time in five years.
Responding to Southern Punjab’s 517-9 declared, Sindh were in strife at 34-3 on Tuesday’s second day before Saad Ali and Fawad rescued them with a stand of 116, which was terminated early on Wednesday when Saad fell to paceman Bilawal Bhatti for 60 (106 balls, eight boundaries).
The departure of Saad left Sindh still a long way from averting the follow-on. But Fawad and Sarfraz built a marathon partnership which yielded a massive 286 runs in 260 minutes before Southern Punjab finally saw the back of Sarfraz roughly half an hour after the tea interval.
Sarfraz, who has been axed from the Pakistan team because of his poor form with the willow, provided ample glimpses of his old self with the customary nudges, cuts and drives, while his footwork was also exemplary.
When Sarfraz reached the magical figure — his first since he made 112 against New Zealand in the Dubai Test in November 2014 — there was noticeable relief on the 32-year-old’s face.
And when he was finally dismissed — lobbing a return catch to slow left-armer Mohammad Irfan off a leading edge — for 131 in what was his 11th first-class ton, he was as startled as the bowler himself as he trudged slow off the ground. Sarfraz’s 174-ball knock was embedded with 13 boundaries.
Shortly afterwards Fawad, whose latest century was 33rd at the first-class level and third of the championship, lifted spinner Agha Salman to the wide midwicket boundary to register his third multiple hundred.
Hampered by fatigue that caused cramps, Fawad batted with great composure while yet again proving he is still good enough to play at the highest after just three brief appearances — which included innings of 168 as an opener on Test debut in Sri Lanka, 10 years ago — at the highest level of cricket.
At long last Fawad perished to the preserving Irfan after reaching 211 from 309 balls in stay of 444 minutes before Bilawal, who is captaining Southern Punjab, polished off the tail on the stroke of stumps to grab four wickets for 82 runs in 21 overs.
Meanwhile, it is highly that lead at the top of standings would change hands on Thursday’s last day of play in the ninth-round matches after Central Punjab slumped to 13-4 after being asked to chase 325 by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on a fast-deteriorating pitch at the NBP Sports Complex.
If Khyber Pakhtunkhwa end Central Punjab’s eight-match unbeaten streak, they will head into the last-round clash against Northern as the new leaders almost a place in the Dec 27-31 final at the National Stadium.
Replying to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s first-innings tally of 355, Central Punjab mustered only 74 for the remaining five wickets, after beginning the day at 154-5, with the spin trio of Khalid Usman (4-67), Sajid Khan (3-55) and Mohammad Mohsin (2-57) inflicting the major damage.
With a cushion of 127 runs in their bag, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa declared their second innings at 197-7 while extending their overall to a commanding 324.
Central Punjab’s hopes of surviving until close of play were swiftly dashed as Pakistan left-arm paceman Usman Khan Shinwari ripped out Salman Butt (2), nightwatchman Aizaz Cheema (4) and skipper Ahmed Shehzad, who suffered the mortification of bagging a pair after demoting himself to No.4, after off-spinner Sajid had accounted for Rizwan Hussain upfront for six.
Northern, who are very much in the race to qualify the title-decider, were well-placed after reducing Balochistan to 189-8 in their second innings at the UBL Sports Complex.
Balochistan, who are rooted at the bottom of the six-team table, are only 147 runs in the lead after Northern moved 42 runs in front of their struggling by posting 342 all out earlier in the morning.
Wicket-keeper Jamal Anwar missed out on a well-deserved hundred as the right-hander was removed by ex-Pakistan seamer Umar Gul for 93 (120 balls, 11 boundaries). The overnight stand between Jamal and Sarmad Bhatti (86 off 178 balls, nine fours and one six) was worth 112 for the sixth wicket.
Left-arm paceman Taj Wali picked up six wickets for 89 runs in 20.2 overs with Umar taking 2-61 from 18 overs.
Northern captain Nauman Ali was the tormentor in the second innings with four for 62 in 29 overs, while his Balochistan counterpart Imran Farhat top-scored with 55. Akbar-ur-Rehman made 41 and added 84 for the third wicket with Imran.
Close of play scores on Wednesday (day three of four):
At UBL Sports Complex, Karachi: BALOCHISTAN 300 in 90.2 overs (Imran Butt 124, Umar Gul 51, Imran Farhat 32, Hussain Talat 26, Asif Zakir 22; Sadaf Hussain 4-75, Nauman Ali 3-80) and 189-8 in 65 overs (Imran Farhat 55, Akbar-ur-Rehman 41, Hussain Talat 32 not out, Imran Butt 28; Nauman Ali 4-62, Waqas Ahmed 3-54); NORTHERN 342 in 86.2 overs (Jamal Anwar 93, Sarmad Bhatti 86, Umar Amin 69, Ali Sarfraz 26, Zeeshan Malik 22; Taj Wali 6-89, Umar Gul 2-61).
At National Stadium, Karachi: SOUTHERN PUNJAB 517-9 declared in 133.3 overs (Zeeshan Ashraf 133, Adnan Akmal 107 not out, Sohaib Maqsood 81, Abdul Rehman Muzammil 49, Bilawal Bhatti 45, Umaid Asif 37, Umar Siddique 27; Anwar Ali 5-75, Hassaan Khan 2-110); SINDH 486 in 132 overs (Fawad Alam 211, Sarfraz Ahmed 131, Saad Ali 60, Anwar Ali 28; Bilawal Bhatti 4-82, Zia-ul-Haq 3-105, Mohammad Irfan 2-129).
At NBP Sports Complex, Karachi: KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 355 in 123.3 overs (Sahibzada Farhan 96, Khalid Usman 72, Mohammad Mohsin 56, Israrullah 51, Ashfaq Ahmed 29; Zafar Gohar 4-143, Bilal Asif 3-98) and 197-7 declared in 54 overs (Israrullah 40, Sahibzada Farhan 36, Zohaib Khan 31 not out, Fakhar Zaman 21, Khalid Usman 21 not out; Zafar Gohar 4-82); CENTRAL PUNJAB 228 in 84.1 overs (Mohammad Saad 49, Kamran Akmal 39, Umar Akmal 34, Usman Qadir 32 not out; Khalid Usman 4-67, Sajid Khan 3-55, Mohammad Mohsin 2-57) and 13-4 in 4.2 overs (Usman Khan Shinwari 3-2).
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019