KARACHI: Southern Punjab surged to the top of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy standings after a cool-headed knock from Agha Salman guided them to a four-wicket victory over Balochistan at the National Stadium here on Tuesday.
Sindh, meanwhile, lost a golden opportunity of defeating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after unnecessarily dragging on their second innings at the UBL Sports Complex. In the end their opponents escaped with a draw — the first stalemate result of the new first-class season — after Ashiq Ali starred with a fabulous bowling performance, as the 25-year-old off-spinner grabbed six wickets to bag 11 victims for the match.
Resuming the fourth and final day’s play at 70-3 in pursuit of a target of 154, Southern Punjab secured victory 18 minutes prior to the scheduled lunch interval when Salman lofted Balochistan skipper Yasir Shah to the mid-off fence to finish on 42 to follow his brilliant 97 in the first innings.
The 26-year-old right-handed Salman, who negotiated 57 balls and hit seven boundaries, scored 30 of the 31 runs in the unbroken partnership with Zahid Mahmood, the leg-spinner who faced 22 deliveries without opening his account, while the additional run during their stand came off a wide from a bouncer Khurram Shahzad that was beyond the batsman’s reach
Southern Punjab, who had last week crushed Northern by an innings and 96 runs at the NBP Sports Complex, have garnered exactly 50 points from two straight victories.
Former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was left to rue his decision to declare Sindh’s second innings belatedly at tea after side — which had began the day at 74-3 — had reached 234-7 to have an overall lead of 288. Had the skipper given his bowlers more time than 45.4 overs they were allowed to deliver in the end by letting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa state their second innings at least an one hour before the 20-minute interval. In the end, Sindh had to settle for just 10 points — including five for the draw — and not 21 of they had won, which would have earned them 11 extra points.
Test batsman Asad Shafiq made a welcome return to form with an undefeated 72 (130 balls, six fours and one six) — the 34-year-old right-hander’s 50th half-century in 155 first-class appearances — while sharing a 53-run stand for the seventh-wicket with young all-rounder Hasan Mohsin (33).
Ashiq, who had claimed his maiden five-for in first-class cricket with his first-innings analysis of 5-94, bettered those figures with a return of 6-33 in 19.4 overs to finish with match bag of 11-127 from 52.2 overs.
The third-round fixtures begin from Friday before the championship goes into a lengthy 11-day break owing to the staging of the Pakistan Super League playoffs at the National Stadium from Nov 14 to 17.
Central Punjab will be desperate for a first win after starting their title defence with back-to-back defeats — against Sindh and Northern, respectively — when they take on Balochistan at the National Stadium. Northern and Sindh clash at the UBL Sports Complex while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa play hosts to Southern Punjab at the NBP Sports Complex.
Scores and results on Tuesday (final day of four):
First XI, second round:
At National Stadium, Karachi: Southern Punjab beat Balochistan by four wickets.
BALOCHISTAN 327 in 104.3 overs (Imran Farhat 116, Imran Butt 92, Taimur Ali 86 not out, Amad Butt 21; Zahid Mahmood 3-101, Mohammad Ilyas 2-60) and 112 in 31.3 overs (Imran Butt 32, Amad Butt 27, Imran Farhat 21 not out; Zahid Mahmood 4-20, Mohammad Abbas 2-24, Dilbar Hussain 2-39); SOUTHERN PUNJAB 331 in 92.2 overs (Agha Salman 97, Shan Masood 62, Imran Rafiq 56 not out, Umar Siddique 47, Hussain Talat 39; Yasir Shah 5-115, Khurram Shehzad 2-55, Taj Wali 2-66) and 154-6 in 44.2 overs (Agha Salman 42 not out, Saif Badar 37, Zeeshan Ashraf 24, Umar Siddique 22; Yasir Shah 3-55, Taj Wali 2-16).
At UBL Sports Complex, Karachi: Match drawn.
SINDH 361 in 127.5 overs (Sarfaraz Ahmed 131 not out, Fawad Alam 91, Saud Shakeel 38, Asad Shafiq 26, Ashiq Ali 24; Khalid Usman 3-108, Sajid Khan 2-132) and 234-7 declared in 76 overs (Asad Shafiq 72 not out, Omair Bin Yousuf 36, Hasan Mohsin 33, Sohail Khan 21 not out; Sajid Khan 3-78, Khalid Usman 2-76); KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 307 in 105.4 overs (Israrullah 67, Rehan Afridi 53, Usman Khan Shinwari 49, Khalid Usman 33, Adil Amin 25, Kamran Ghulam 20; Ashiq Ali 5-94, Sohail Khan 3-46) and 96-7 in 45.4 overs (Adil Amin 38; Ashiq Ali 6-33).