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Asjad Iqbal clinches ranking snooker title for fourth time

Asjad Iqbal clinches ranking snooker title for fourth time

KARACHI: International cueist Asjad Iqbal and the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Ranking Snooker Cup title have been synonymous for the last couple of years. This proved true again when he carved out convincing 8-4 frames victory over Shahid Aftab in the final of the ninth edition at the bank’s sports complex on Tuesday to clinch the crown for the fourth time overall.

The triumph — 63-49, 39-69, 65-17, 1-86, 5-64, 96-44, 74-42, 67-15, 30-82, 72-42, 78-30, 62-29 — also helped him reach the top of the national ranking after a lapse of seven years succeeding former world amateur snooker champion Mohammad Asif.

“I’ve been in the best nick this year having played the final of the national championship in March and clinched silver medal pairing with Mohammad Sajjad in the IBSF team event in Egypt recently,” an elated 25-year-old Iqbal told Dawn after the victory.

In the run-up to the final, the second seed Iqbal humbled Asif 5-3 in the pre quarters, former Asian junior No 2 Mohammad Majid Ali 5-3 in the quarters and promising Mohammad Ijaz 6-5 in the semis. Earlier, he had to be content with second position behind talented Mubashir Raza in group B.

A native of Sargodha, Iqbal, who got married a year ago, said he has been selected in a three-member team that will compete in the Indoor Games at Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in September. A camp is being set up at Islamabad from Aug 25, he said.

According to him, other two members of the team are Mohammad Sajjad and Mohammad Bilal.

Former international Aftab, who won the national title in 2011 and a national ranking event in 2013, has seized second spot in the ranking by making it to the third final of his career.

After emerging group E champion, Aftab thrashed Shah Khan 5-0 in the pre quarters, handed a 5-3 defeat to Mubashir Raza in the quarters and overcome Sindh’s Abdul Sattar 6-5 in the semi-final.

“Terming the final below par, he said both the cueists weren’t impressive,” Aftab said.

At the outset, the final was evenly contested until three-all with Aftab leading the best of 15 frames battle 3-2 and thereafter he managed to take one more frame to reduce the deficit 4-5 before succumbing to pressure.

Iqbal had a brisk start winning the first frame 63-49 before losing the next 39-69 to be tied one-all. The former then chalked up a break of 51 to surge 2-1 that compelled his opponent to concede the third frame 17-65 with many colour balls still on the table.

The former national champion came back into the game from behind not only drawing level but enhancing the lead to 3-2 giving no chance to his opponent to settle who lost 1-86 and 5-64. Iqbal kept his patience and won the fifth, sixth and seventh frames 96-44, 74-42 and 67-15 to take a firm 5-3 lead only to lost the next 30-82 that reduced his lead 5-4. Aftab piled up a break of 67 in the ninth frame.

Iqbal then raced to clinch the next three frames in a row 72-42, 78-30 and 62-29 to justify his credentials.

He received a winning purse of Rs60,000 and winning trophy from the NBP President Saeed Ahmed amidst applause at the presentation ceremony that followed the final.

Aftab received runner-up purse of Rs35,000 and the trophy.

The highest break of the event award went to former national champion Mohammad Bilal who hammered an elegant break of 139. His cash prize of Rs5,000 and the trophy was received by former Asian champion Hamza Akbar who is here on holidays from England.

Also present on the occasion were Executive Vice President and Divisional Head CSR and Sports, NBP, Ovais Asad Khan, President Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation Federation (PBSF) Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, PBSF officials Javed Karim and Abdul Qadir Memon and NBP’s Anwer Farooqi.

Final result: Asjad Iqbal (Punjab) bt Shahid Aftab (Punjab) 8-4 (63-49, 39-69, 65-17, 1-86, 5-64, 96-44, 74-42, 67-15, 30-82, 72-42, 78-30, 62-29).

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017

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