KARACHI: On Friday, when the left-armer ripped apart Balochistan batting with a career-best 7-35, the former Pakistan Under-19 paceman Zia-ul-Haq could not have asked for a more fitting 26th birthday present as Southern Punjab secured a clinical 205-run victory in their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fixture here at the National Stadium.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wrapped up an emphatic innings and a 37-run win over Sindh in the other remaining game that went into the fourth day thus deservingly surging to the top of the six-team standings.
Hailing from Vehari — the birthplace of legendary Pakistan fast bowler and former captain-cum-head coach Waqar Younis who is the national side’s current bowling coach — Zia grabbed the last seven wickets that Balochistan to be dismissed for 199, some 40 minutes before the extended one-hour break for lunch and Friday prayers.
Bowling from the University Road End, after Balochistan had stretched their overnight tally from 112-2 to 154 without further defeat, Zia capitalised on a position just shy of a length and made the Kookaburra ball rise disconcertingly repeatedly to infuse terror into the opposing batsmen.
At that point, when the left-handed Imran was undone by a vicious delivery whizzing past his bat to clean him up for 844, leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood made the initial breakthrough (off 120 balls, 11 boundaries).
Shortly afterwards, Zia took over the role of chief killer and picked up a wicket in his 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th over before declaring a brace in the 15th and, fittingly, finished off the resistance of Balochistan at exactly 12:20pm by catching last man Taj Wali with the fourth ball of his 16th over. All of his wickets came in the space of 36 balls for 15 runs during his dream spell.
Apart from Imran, Akbar-ur-Rehman, who contributed a 1-3-ball 57, was the other notable run-getter for Balochistan, while Ayaz Tasawwar, the top scorer with 76 in the first innings, was left stranded on 26.
When their captain, Umar Siddique, was pulled off the field after suffering a knock to his right wicket-keeping glove, Southern Punjab suffered a setback. Behind the stumps, his substitute Maqbool Ahmed caught three catches, including one off rebound when Mohammad Umair parried the ball in his direction in the gulley.
In the standings, Southern Punjab is third behind Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (117) and Northern (104) with 103 points.
After their third loss in seven games, Sindh, meanwhile, are in heaps of trouble pushing them to the bottom of the table with 66 points as they track fourth-placed Central Punjab (76) and Balochistan (74). As they managed just 28 runs to their Thursday’s total of 120-5, their new fiasco was swift. Though off-spinner Sajid Khan grabbed two of those five wickets to fall on Friday to finish with 5-49 in 17.4 overs, Saud Shakeel struggled to add to his overnight 50 while young paceman Mohammad Wasim took 3-37.
The eighth round of matches will commence on Monday.
Scores and results on Friday (final day of four):
First XI, seventh round:
At National Stadium, Karachi: Southern Punjab beat Balochistan by 205 runs.
SOUTHERN PUNJAB 256 in 79.5 overs (Agha Salman 50, Zahid Mahmood 45, Zain Abbas 40, Saif Badar 24, Mohammad Imran 24; Taj Wali 3-66, Umaid Asif 2-35, Jalat Khan 2-64, Kashif Bhatti 2-90) and 312 in 96.5 overs (Imran Rafiq 97, Mohammad Umair 59, Saif Badar 53, Zain Abbas 33; Jalat Khan 5-76, Umaid Asif 3-103); BALOCHISTAN 164 in 41.4 overs (Ayaz Tasawwar 76, Bismillah Khan 24, Jalat Khan 20; Aamir Yamin 6-47, Mohammad Ilyas 2-53) and 199 in 55.4 overs (Imran Farhat 84, Akbar-ur-Rehman 57, Ayaz Tasawwar 26 not out; Zia-ul-Haq 7-35, Aamir Yamin 2-50).
At SBP Sports Complex, Karachi: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa beat Sindh by an innings and 37 runs.
SINDH 229 in 81.2 overs (Asad Shafiq 60, Sharjeel Khan 57, Omair Bin Yousuf 24, Hasan Mohsin 24; Irfanullah Shah 5-33, Sajid Khan 3-66) and 148 in 50.4 overs (Sharjeel Khan 51, Saud Shakeel 50; Sajid Khan 5-49, Mohammad Wasim 3-37); KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA 414 in 126.5 overs (Kamran Ghulam 166, Rehan Afridi 87, Fakhar Zaman 62, Khalid Usman 25; Mir Hamza 3-89, Tabish Khan 3-104, Shahnawaz Dhani 2-100).