KARACHI: Discarded Pakistan opener Sharjeel Khan brought an end to almost seven-year wait for a first-class century when the swashbuckling left-hander bludgeoned 121 as Sindh strengthened their grip over Southern Punjab in their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fixture here at the National Stadium on Sunday.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were closing in on their second win in the championship after reaching 108-3 in pursuit of a modest target of 171 against reigning champions Central Punjab at the UBL Sports Complex where off-spinner Sajid Khan snared match bag of 10-157.
Azeem Ghumman, meanwhile, was desperately unlucky at missing out on a century for the second time in three days during the match between Balochistan and Northern at the NBP Sports Complex.
The 31-year-old Sharjeel last scored a first-class ton — 279 for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited against Pakistan Television in the President’s Trophy match in Rawalpindi — during the 2013-14 season — but on Sunday he needed luck to go his way after being dropped twice on 7 and 60.
Apart from those lapses, Sharjeel produced a high-class knock and looked in dominant form after a lacklustre campaign for newly-crowned Pakistan Super League champions Karachi Kings. He raced to 50 from 53 balls in a total of 63-2 and completed his 12th first-class hundred off just 99 deliveries — out of a team tally of 138-2 — before falling to leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood after having hit 16 fours and three sixes. On the way, the Hyderabad-born batsman surged past 5,000 career runs.
Thanks to Sharjeel, Sindh went to stumps on the penultimate day of this fourth-round match at 190-3, whole enjoying an overall lead of 278 after gaining an advantage of 88 runs on the first innings. Saud Shakeel, who is still at the crease on 45, added 130 for the third wicket with Sharjeel.
Earlier in the day, Sindh’s hopes of earning a substantial lead on the first innings was thwarted by a dogged 10th wicket stand of 62 between Agha Salman (67) and Zahid (17 not out) before Southern Punjab were dismissed for 295 in response to 383 made by their opponents.
Opener Zain Abbas fell five short of reaching three-figures as the left-hander resumed on 75. His 95 off 162 balls included 14 boundaries. Fast bowler Tabish Khan claimed two more wickets to finish with 4-83 in 25 overs while his new-ball partner Shahnawaz Dhani took 3-74 and bespectacled leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed claimed two wickets on his first-class debut.
Central Punjab staged a belated fightback through an 80-run partnership for the sixth wicket, involving Mohammad Saad (77) and skipper Saad Nasim (52) but still failed to set a challenging run chase for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they were all out for 248 in their second innings after starting play at 65-5.
Sajid, who had already completed a century of first-class wickets with 4-56 on Friday, snared two more wickets to end up with 6-101 from 36.2 overs.
Balochistan earned a lead of 143 by bowling out Northern for 275 in their first innings before increasing it to 363 by going to stumps at 223-4 in the second innings. The highlight being Azeem being tragically run out for 91 (125 balls, 10 boundaries) after the former Pakistan Under-19 captain hit up 95 in the first innings. Akbar-ur-Rehman scored an undefeated 80 while adding 113 for the third wicket with Azeem.
Close of play scores on Sunday (day three 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) and 190-3 in 48 overs (Sharjeel Khan 121, Saud Shakeel 45 not out); SOUTHERN PUNJAB 295 in 86 overs (Zain Abbas 95, Agha Salman 67, Said Badar 43, Imran Rafique 42; Tabish Khan 4-83, Shahnawaz Dhani 3-74, Abrar Ahmed 2-119).
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 248 in 85.2 overs (Mohammad Saad 77, Saad Nasim 52, Bilawal Iqbal 48 not out, Ahmed Shehzad 21; Sajid Khan 6-101, Arshad Iqbal 3-42); 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) and 108-3 in 33 overs (Adil Amin 39 not out, Musadiq Ahmed 24; Ahmed Safi Abdullah 3-63).
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) and 223-4 in 48 overs (Azeem Ghumman 91, Akbar-ur-Rehman 80 not out); NORTHERN 275 in 89.4 overs (Faizan Riaz 78, Mohammad Nawaz 67, Asif Ali 36, Hammad Azam 34, Umair Masood 24; Kashif Bhatti 4-114, Taj Wali 2-45, Mohammad Talha 2-46).
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020