KARACHI: The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were upgraded to the top of Pakistan domestic cricket on Wednesday when they qualified to play at first-class level for the first time in their history by securing an 81-run victory over Karachi Blues.
In the final round of matches of the inter-region qualifying tournament, Fata only required a draw to make the cut from pool ‘A’ but they doubled their celebration by cantering to a third straight triumph that earned them nine points, 27 points overall.
On the penultimate day of the four-day game at the UBL Sports Complex, Fata were dismissed for 107 in their second innings after starting at 79-6. Paceman Waqar Anwar claimed 5-34.
Chasing 336, Karachi Blues then folded up for 255 with young Saud Shakeel scoring 56.
Speedster Mohammad Sarwar followed up his 6-47 in the first innings by taking 3-27, giving him match haul of 9-74.
The result means Karachi will be represented by their Whites strings in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy this season.
Faisalabad, losers in the previous two matches, scored a facile nine-wicket success against Abbottabad in the other pool ‘A’ tie at the NBP Sports Complex.
Lahore are almost certain to have two teams competing in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy after their Blues outfit staged a brilliant fightback against Sialkot in the Pool ‘B’ fixture at the National Stadium in Karachi.
Replying to Sialkot’s first-innings total of 359, Lahore Blues were in deep trouble at 164-5 at stumps on Tuesday. But a tremendous rearguard action from the lower-order batting lifted them to 360 with Fahad-ul-Haq (88 off 212 balls, 11 boundaries), Farhan Khan (74 off 129 balls, 13 fours) and Bilawal Iqbal (51 not out off 161 balls, five fours) playing key roles in their resurgence.
Buoyed by the spirited fightback, Lahore Blues then had Sialkot in heaps of trouble in the second innings at 48-8 when stumps were pulled out for the day.
Bahawalpur, meanwhile, grabbed a consolation nine-wicket win against Multan in their pool ‘B’ encounter at the Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad.
Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), who lead the standings in the qualifying competition for departments, were in sight of a third consecutive victory after reducing Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) to 93-5 in pursuit of a 293 at the Multan Cricket Stadium in Multan.
SSGC added 63 runs to their second-innings tally of 123-3 to be dismissed for 186 with spinner Nauman Ali claiming 5-22.
Pakistan left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir continued his wicket-taking form by claiming three of the five wickets in KRL’s second innings. He took 6-32 in the first innings.
State Bank also stayed in the hunt to figure in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy by closing in on a clinical defeat of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad.
KPT, who conceded a huge 334 lead to the bankers, were 179-4 in their second innings and still require 155 to make State Bank bat again.
Earlier, Kamran Ghulam just failed to become the third batsman in State Bank’s innings to reach three figures after Saad Ali (144) and Israrullah (130). The all-rounder, who played for Pakistan U-19, was dismissed for 99 (124 balls, eight fours and one six).
Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) need just two wickets to hand PIA a crushing defeat at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
When play ended for the PIA had nosedived to 168-8 after falling behind by 287 runs on the first innings.
Aamir Shah, earlier, emulated Zohaib Khan (121) and Rameez Alam (122) by hitting up an unbeaten 103 off 147 balls with 14 boundaries as ZTBL declared their innings at 455-6.