KARACHI: Central Punjab’s title defence is progressively getting from bad to worse as Quaid-e-Azam Trophy holders were on the brink of another defeat — this time against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — at the UBL Sports Complex here on Saturday.
At halfway stage of the fourth-round fixture, Central Punjab — who had lost to Sindh and Northern — had slumped to a sorry-looking 65-5 in their second innings with off-spinner Sajid Khan destroying their top order with four wickets for 20 runs in 11 overs. The champions still require 13 runs from being humiliated by innings.
Earlier, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa earned a handy 78-run lead on the first innings after extending their overnight score of 61-4 to 236 all out, while replying to bottom-placed Central Punjab’s 158. It was a great comeback from the currently fifth-placed side since at one point they were in deep trouble at 98-6.
Skipper Khalid Usman led the fightback with a splendid unbeaten 92 in 170 minutes. The all-rounder’s 141-ball contribution included 10 boundaries and a brace of sixes. Kamran Ghulam also played a vital hand with 43 as he shared a seventh-wicket partnership of 73 with the captain.
Discarded Test off-spinner Bilal Asif toiled through 33 overs to claim three wickets for 107 runs but the pick of Central Punjab bowling was left-arm paceman Waqas Maqsood, who took 3-41 in 13.3 overs.
Northern, who reached the final last season, also had a tough time at the NBP Sports Complex where Balochistan reduced them to 196-6 by taking the valuable scalp of ex-Pakistan all-rounder Hammad Azam (34) on the day’s final delivery.
Faizan Riaz was the standout Northern batsman with a 109-ball 78, while another Pakistan discard Mohammad Nawaz is still fighting it out on 36. Kashif Bhatti who dismissed the now forgotten Pakistan limited-overs batsman Asif Ali for 36 earlier, also got rid of Hammad.
Earlier, Balochistan added 161 runs to their opening day’s tally of 257-5. The major contributors being Ayaz Tasawwar (71) and Kashif (54) with the duo adding 94 for the seventh wicket.
Northern captain Nauman Ali only managed one more wicket on Saturday to finish with figures of 4-129 in 46 overs.
Current leaders Southern Punjab, meanwhile, staged a good comeback against Sindh as eight wickets went down at the National Stadium.
After taking the six wickets for the addition of 94 runs to dismiss Sindh for 383, Southern Punjab collected 148-2 with opener Zain Abbas scoring an unbeaten 75 in 202 minutes. Imran Rafique made 42 as he and fellow left-hander Zain shared a second-wicket stand of 81 in a minute over two hours.
Sindh failed to press on from their wonderful recovery when they posted 289-4 on Friday with Omair Bin Yousuf and skipper Asad Shafiq both striking centuries during their 228-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Omair, who resumed at 129, was held at square leg after reaching 153 — the 19-year-old’s third 150-plus score among his four first-class centuries — while Asad returned, after going off on day one due to cramps with his score on 126, was ninth out when he was stumped by Southern Punjab captain Umar Siddique for 141.
Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood snared three wickets on Saturday to finish with 4-84 from 21.5 overs.
Close of play scores on Saturday (day two of four):
First XI, fourth round:
At National Stadium, Karachi: SINDH 383 in 111.5 overs (Omair Bin Yousuf 153, Asad Shafiq 141, Saad Ali 33; Zahid Mahmood 4-84, Zia-ul-Haq 2-54, Mohammad Imran 2-56, Bilawal Bhatti 2-73); SOUTHERN PUNJAB 148-2 in (Zain Abbas 75 not out, Imran Rafique 42, Saif Badar 27 not out; Tabish Khan 2-43).
At UBL Sports Complex, Karachi: CENTRAL PUNJAB 158 in 66.2 overs (Usman Salahuddin 54, Bilal Asif 22, Ahmed Safi Abdullah 20; Sajid Khan 4-56, Imran Khan 3-29, Khalid Usman 2-35) and 65-5 in 29 overs (Ahmed Shehzad 21; Sajid Khan 4-20); KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 236 in 81.3 overs (Khalid Usman 92 not out, Kamran Ghulam 43, Israrullah 25, Musadiq Ahmed 22, Adil Amin 22; Waqas Maqsood 3-41, Bilal Asif 3-107, Ahmed Safi Abdullah 2-41).
At NBP Sports Complex, Karachi: BALOCHISTAN 418 in 124.2 overs (Azeem Ghumman 95, Ayaz Tasawwar 71, Kashif Bhatti 54, Ali Waqas 52, Bismillah Khan 38, Mohammad Talha 30, Taimur Ali 26, Imran Farhat 24; Nauman Ali 4-129, Nasir Nawaz 2-15, Mohammad Nawaz 2-71); NORTHERN 196-6 in 50 overs (Faizan Riaz 78, Mohammad Nawaz 39 not out, Asif Ali 36, Hammad Azam 34; Taj Wali 2-37, Kashif Bhatti 2-82).
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2020