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Misbah, Azhar help SNGPL retain Quaid Trophy title

Misbah, Azhar help SNGPL retain Quaid Trophy title

KARACHI: Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali shared a century partnership to help Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) retain Quaid-i-Azam Trophy National Cricket Champ­ionship title with a six-wicket victory over United Bank Limited (UBL) at the National Stadium here on Wednesday.

Both posted half-centuries while putting on 110 for the fourth wicket in 150 minutes with Azhar hitting up 56 and Misbah scoring the winning runs to finish with an undefeated 60 as SNGPL made light work of the remaining 104 after being set a modest 160-run target late on Tuesday night, to seal their fourth successive domestic first-class crown after play was extended beyond the scheduled 4:00pm tea break by 17 minutes with the end in sight.

The day-night final was turn on its head on Tuesday by a magnificent exhibition of pace bowling when Bilawal Bhatti wrecked UBL’s hopes of posting a sizeable second-innings total which would have given the champions a much stiffer chase by returning stupendous figures of 8-56. Bilawal’s match bag of 11-95 made him the undisputed recipient of the man-of-the-match award.




On a hazy fourth afternoon of the scheduled five-day fixture something extraordinary was needed from the UBL bowlers to create panic in the SNGPL ranks. Sadly there was nothing from the bankers to suggest they were still fighting it out. What panned out was anti-climatic as both Azhar and Misbah batted with composure against the pink ball which needed the lights to be switched on to behave abnormally.

Azhar, the Pakistan ODI skipper who was batting on 17 in SNGPL’s total of 56-3 at stumps on day three, capitalise on scoring opportunities while Misbah looked in complete control as he did in the first innings when the seasoned played an exceptional knock 85.

The only chance that went down was when SNGPL only a handful of runs away from victory. Azhar’s attempted glance against left-arm spinner Yasim Murtaza was spilled by wicket-keeper Gulraiz Sadaf.

Misbah’s 96-ball, featuring seven boundaries and a powerful strike for six against seamer Hammad Azam which landed on the full at the bottom of the sightscreen at the University Road End, could have come to an end had umpire Ahmed Shahab decided against asking TV official Khalid Mahmood to recheck whether Ehsan Adil had crossed the line in delivering the ball that Misbah lifted to Rumman Raees Khan at mid off.

Replays, however, reprieved Misbah, who scored 145 for once out in a game that saw only 795 runs being scored for the loss of 34 wickets with Younis Khan’s masterly 98 the highest individual score, while they were just five half-centuries made.

In contrast to this match, the previous Quaid Trophy final at the same venue in December 2014 yielded 1321 runs with 30 wickets falling. Mohammad Rizwan’s innings of 224 was the highest of the five centuries recorded in that drawn fixture. The major difference was the playing conditions with that all-day final played with red balls, compared to the pink balls used on this occasion.

Both Misbah and Younis termed the experiment of playing with pink balls as good addition for cricket.

“Certainly, there was nothing alarming about it when we batted during the period of play with the natural [sun] light. But when the floodlights were on, the pink ball started to create problems for the batsmen,” Younis said at the post-match ceremony. “But it was a very good learning experience which personally I like because we should welcome innovations which will make cricket more fascinating to watch.

“Losing the final was disappointing but credit to SNGPL for playing better game. But I must laud the way my team competed. To reach the final itself was a big achievement for us with a revamped squad of players,” Younis added.

Misbah, who collected the winners’ trophy from PCB chairman Shaharyar Mohammad Khan, paid tribute to his team by saying: “It’s always wonderful to win any title and to win four first-class titles in a row is simply magnificent. It was team effort all the way that inspired to lift the trophy once.

“Playing with the pink ball was a great experience for both teams. But I must add here we probably adapted better to the conditions than the UBL boys and therefore won the final. Bilawal Bhatti was out star with a game-changing spell the other night.”

Ehsan Adil was declared the outstanding player of the championship for his all-round contributions of 47 wickets and 228 runs. The best batsman prize went to Asif Zakir of Sui Southern Gas Company for amassing 791 runs, while Khan Research Laboratories (KRL)’s paceman Mohammad Abbas won the best bowler award for taking 61 wickets.

The final also marked the last appearance of former Test player Anwer Khan as a PCB elite panel match referee. Anwer, 60, officiated in 147 first-class matches, 112 List-A games and 28 Twenty20 fixtures organised by the PCB during his 22-year career.

The burly Anwer, while thanking the cricket board for the support, said he was leaving with happy memories

“I couldn’t have hoped for a wonderful conclusion to my tenure as a match referee. To officiate in a day-night final with pink balls was tremendous to say the least,” Anwer told Dawn. “It [the final] is something that I shall remember for the rest of my life. The PCB has been extremely good to me over the years and without the support from the officials, it wouldn’t have possible for me to get going for so long.”

SNGPL, who won the now defunct President’s Trophy in both seasons they were held in 2012-13 and 2013-14 by defeating Habib Bank Limited and UBL respectively, sealed the Quaid Trophy title last season on first-innings lead against National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) after the final ended in a tame draw.

Scoreboard

UNITED BANK LIMITED 208 (Sharjeel Khan 73, Hammad Azam 39, Gulraiz Sadaf 27 not out; Bilawal Bhatti 3-39, Mohammad Hafeez 3-45, Azizullah 2-25).

SUI NORTHERN GAS PIPELINES LIMITED 238 (Misbah-ul-Haq 85, Umar Akmal 44, Taufiq Umar 38, Imran Khalid 26 not out; Ehsan Adil 4-39, Yasim Murtaza 3-28).

UNITED BANK LIMITED  (2nd Innings) 189 (Younis Khan 98, Hammad Azam 45; Bilawal Bhatti 8-56, Azizullah 2-41).

SUI NORTHERN GAS PIPELINES LIMITED (2nd Innings, overnight 56-3):

Mohammad Hafeez b Mir Hamza17

Taufiq Umar c Gulraiz b Rumman18

Hussain Talat b Rumman0

Azhar Ali c Gulraiz b Ehsan56

Misbah-ul-Haq not out60

Umar Akmal not out1

EXTRAS (LB-4, NB-4)8

TOTAL (for four wkts, 52.2 overs)160

FALL OF WKTS: 1-33, 2-33, 3-41, 4-151.

BOWLING: Ehsan Adil 14-2-55-1 (3nb); Rumman Raees Khan 11-3-30-2 (1nb); Mir Hamza 12-4-28-1; Yasim Murtaza 10.2-2-25-0; Hammad Azam 5-0-18-0.

RESULT: Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited won by six wickets.

UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza and Ahmed Shahab.

TV UMPIRE: Khalid Mahmood.

MATCH REFEREE: Anwer Khan.

FOURTH UMPIRE: Imtiaz Iqbal.

SCORERS: Syed Imran Ali (official); Salman Hussain Kazmi (media).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Bilawal Bhatti.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016

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