KARACHI: Tailender Ahmed Safi Abdullah proved an unlikely batting hero against Sindh to put Central Punjab on brink of their much-awaited first victory in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy at the National Stadium here on Friday.
After starting the championship with two straight defeats, Central Punjab are almost certain to seal Sindh’s fate on Saturday’s final day of this sixth-round fixture. After being set an improbable 432, Sindh were in hot soup at 152-4 despite opener Sharjeel Khan contributing 89 of those runs before being run out.
Sindh captain Asad Shafiq’s struggles continued when he was dismissed by occasional off-spinner Qasim Akram for an incredible 35-ball duck after 54 minutes of crease occupation.
But the day belonged to the young left-handed Ahmed who not only registered his maiden first-class 50 but remained unbeaten on 83 as the last two Central Punjab wickets boosted the second innings tally by 130 runs.
Resuming at 96-5 — and holding an overnight lead of 280 runs — Central Punjab lost three quick wickets to be find themselves tottering at 117-8. But the 22-year-old Ahmed, who came in at No.10, blasted six fours and five sixes during his 60-ball knock.
Waqas Maqsood followed up his magnificent 6-25 on Friday with a useful 32 as helped Ahmed shared the highest stand of the innings — 68 for the last wicket.
Leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed captured four wickets for 40 runs.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also closing in on their third victory in the competition after reducing Balochistan to 164-6 in pursuit of a stiff target of exactly 400 at the SBP Sports Complex.
Earlier, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa added 101 runs to their Friday’s second-innings total of 98-3. Opener Israrullah hit 86, while paceman Taj Wali grabbed 5-57.
Northern, meanwhile, require to make 200 with their second innings to yet to start at the UBL Sports Complex to displace Southern Punjab at the top of the six-team standings.
Southern Punjab, who started the third day at 19-0 after trailing by runs on the first innings, were all out for a second-innings score of 295 on the stroke of stumps after Northern broke a stubborn fifth-wicket partnership of 137 between Agha Salman (89) and Imran Rafiq (61).
Northern skipper Nauman Ali maintained his spot at the top of bowling chart by snaring six wickets for 107 runs on Friday to take his overall haul to 43.
Close of play scores on Friday (day three of four):
First XI, sixth round:
At National Stadium, Karachi: CENTRAL PUNJAB 276 in 103.2 overs (Usman Salahuddin 80, Ali Zaryab 56, Saad Nasim 44, Mohammad Saad 41, Hasan Ali 26 not out; Tabish Khan 3-37, Mir Hamza 3-58) and 247 in 61 overs (Ahmed Safi Abdullah 83 not out, Mohammad Akhlaq 56, Waqas Maqsood 32; Abrar Ahmed 4-40, Shahnawaz Dhani 3-59, Mohammad Umar 2-56); SINDH 92 in 29.3 overs (Saad Ali 17; Waqas Maqsood 6-25, Bilawal Iqbal 2-17) and 152-4 in 50.5 overs (Sharjeel Khan 89, Shehzar Mohammad 26 not out, Saad Ali 24 not out).
At UBL Sports Complex, Karachi: SOUTHERN PUNJAB 285 in 86.3 overs (Umar Siddique 89, Saif Badar 81, Agha Salman 53, Aamir Yamin 26, Zeeshan Ashraf 25; Sadaf Hussain 3-45, Munir Riaz 2-39, Nauman Ali 2-51) and 295 in 93.2 overs (Agha Salman 89, Imran Rafiq 61, Umar Siddique 34, Umar Khan 23, Zeeshan Ashraf 22; Nauman Ali 6-107); NORTHERN 381 in 83 overs (Umar Amin 102, Hammad Azam 91, Mohammad Nawaz 43, Sarmad Bhatti 41, Nasir Nawaz 36, Munir Riaz 23 not out; Zahid Mahmood 4-120, Zia-ul-Haq 2-70).
At SBP Sports Complex, Karachi: KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 320 in 89.5 overs (Kamran Ghulam 153, Rehan Afridi 58, Khalid Usman 27; Khurram Shehzad 4-80, Umaid Asif 3-88, Taj Wali 2-76) and 199 in 60 overs (Israrullah 86, Adil Amin 32; Taj Wali 5-57, Jalat Khan 2-36, Khurram Shehzad 2-47); BALOCHISTAN 120 in 33 overs (Bismillah Khan 50 not out, Awais Zia 28; Irfanullah Shah 4-41, Mohammad Wasim 3-24, Sameen Gul 3-54) and 164-6 in 61 overs (Ali Waqas 44, Awais Zia 43; Sajid Khan 2-34, Mohammad Wasim 2-48).
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2020