KARACHI: While Hussain Talat struck goldmine with a career-best effort on Monday as Southern Punjab tightened their grip against Northern, the big Quaid-e-Azam Trophy clash between Central Punjab and Sindh at the National Stadium was intriguingly poised with Fawad Alam firmly holding the fort.
In the other fixture, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were at the receiving end when Balochistan obtained a substantial first-innings lead of 195 runs after the former folded up for 167.
Northern, the runners-up to Central Punjab last season, were heading for a humiliating defeat against the rampaging Southern Punjab side at the NBP Sports Complex after Hussain hammered 253 to help his team gain a commanding lead of 342 runs on the first innings.
By stumps Northern had slumped to 31-3 in their second turn — and still needing 311 to avoid innings defeat as Test seamer Mohammad Abbas bagged a brace with an early finish to this encounter on the cards.
Hussain, 24, managed just one century — 136 while playing for Balochistan against Southern Punjab at the Bugti Stadium in Quetta last November — in previous 40 first-class appearances before converted his overnight score of 53 into an epic 253, which eventually guided Southern Punjab to a massive 507-9 declared in response to Northern’s paltry total of 165.
Resuming at 174-1, captain Shan Masood, who also reached three figures, and Hussain extended their second-wicket partnership to 185 before the Test opener departed for 134. Shan’s 15th first-class hundred included 17 boundaries as the tall left-hander batted for 282 minutes and negotiated 185 deliveries.
Hussain, who accumulated exactly 200 runs on day two of the four-day fixture, belted 33 fours and hoisted six sixes during his 310-ball innings in a 415-minute stay.
Northern skipper Nauman Ali toiled through 41 overs to grab four wickets for 153 runs, while paceman Athar Mahmood claimed 3-86.
Sindh still require 11 runs to match Central Punjab’s first-innings tally of 207 after an absorbing day of action. After the reigning champions had added only two more runs to their Sunday’s score of 205-9, Sindh batsmen found the runs hard to get by on a pitch which has started to behave abnormally as the Kookaburra ball suddenly jumped from a good length spot while some of the deliveries crept low at times.
It was chiefly due to the tenacity of durable Fawad that allowed Sindh to breathe easily as the Test left-hander battled hard to make an unbeaten 90 in a team total of 196-6. Luck also was on his side when he was let off before opening his account by Ali Zaryab, who failed to cling onto a sharp chance at short leg.
In fact, Sindh also owed Tabish Khan a huge debt. After his heroics with ball — when the paceman starred with 5-44, the 35-year-old’s 38th five-for haul — the day before, Tabish (17 off 87 balls) partnered Fawad (182 balls, seven fours) in a crucial unbroken stand of 83 after Sindh were down in the mire at 113-6.
The biggest disappointment, yet again, was the early demise of Test right-hander Asad Shafiq, who edged the admirable Ahmed Bashir to second slip after scoring mere eight runs.
Central Punjab’s quartet of paceman did a sterling job during the first two sessions as it gave virtually nothing away. It was a remarkable occurrence to note the first boundary of second day being hit in the 46th over — 44.3 of Sindh’s innings to be précised since Central Punjab had upfront faced last deliveries when the final wicket fell — when Fawad cut part-time bowler Mohammad Saad behind the point region.
Balochistan, meanwhile, were sitting pretty after seamer Khurram Shehzad (5-27 in 10 overs) and skipper Yasir Shah (4-94 in 17.5 overs) made life miserable for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa batsmen. At one stage, KP were reeling at 42-5 but Kamran Ghulam (42) and Khalid Usman (an unbeaten 57) added respectability to the total.
Earlier, Balochistan’s last three wickets garnered a further 52 runs with Bismillah Khan finally dismissed for 118 (242 balls, 13 fours), while Khurram hit 37 as the two put on 52 for the eighth wicket.
Close of play scores on Monday (day two of four):
First XI, first round:
At National Stadium: CENTRAL PUNJAB 207 in 86.4 overs (Ahmed Shehzad 69, Mohammad Saad 51, Kamran Akmal 24; Tabish Khan 5-44); SINDH 196-6 in 80 overs (Fawad Alam 90 not out, Khurram Manzoor 35; Ahmed Bashir 2-46, Waqas Maqsood 2-49).
At UBL Sports Complex: BALOCHISTAN 362 in 110.2 overs (Bismillah Khan 118, Kashif Bhatti 98, Sami Aslam 56, Khurram Shehzad 37; Sajid Khan 3-96, Junaid Khan 2-53, Ahmed Jamal 2-70, Imran Khan 2-72) and 34-1 in 17 overs; KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 167 in 46.5 overs (Khalid Usman 57 not out, Kamran Ghulam 42, Sajid Khan 27; Khurram Shehzad 5-27, Yasir Shah 4-94).
At NBP Sports Complex: NORTHERN 165 in 48.4 overs (Umar Amin 29, Faizan Riaz 29, Sarmad Bhatti 25, Zeeshan Malik 24, Hammad Azam 24; Zahid Mahmood 4-41, Agha Salman 3-34) and 31-3 in 11 overs (Mohammad Abbas 2-13); SOUTHERN PUNJAB 507-9 declared in 113.1 overs (Hussain Talat 253, Shan Masood 134, Umar Siddique 40, Bilawal Bhatti 31; Nauman Ali 4-153, Athar Mahmood 3-86).
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2020