The title defenders, who are currently sitting at the bottom of the six-team points table, had set a daunting 432-run target for Sindh
Central Punjab neared their first victory in the ongoing first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy as they were six wickets away from defeating Sindh when the third day of the sixth round fixture came to an end at the National Stadium on Friday.
The title defenders, who are currently sitting at the bottom of the six-team points table, had set a daunting 432-run target for Sindh, who were 152 for four when stumps were drawn.
As Sindh’s batsmen continued to struggle against Central Punjab bowlers after being bowled out for a paltry 92 in the first innings, it was Sharjeel Khan’s fighting 89 that held his side’s second innings together.
Central Punjab captain Hasan Ali made early inroads when he removed Omair Bin Yousuf, who failed to open his account, with just eight runs on scoreboard.
Waqas Maqsood, who took six wickets for 25 runs in the first innings, dismissed Saud Shakeel (10) and Qasim Akram accounted for Sindh captain Asad Shafiq (0) as Sindh wobbled at 65 for three.
A 45-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Saad Ali and Sharjeel steadied the ship before a direct-hit from the boundary rope by Tayyab Tahir, fielding as a substitute, ran out Sharjeel, who struck 11 fours and three sixes in his 138-ball stay at the crease.
Sindh require another 280 runs to win the match. On Saturday, Saad Ali, unbeaten on 24, and wicketkeeper-batsman Shehzar Mohammad, who is not out on 26, will resume the run chase.
Earlier, a blistering 83 not out from only 60 balls by Ahmed Safi Abdullah helped Central Punjab post 247 all out in their second innings after resuming the day at 96 for five.
The 22-year-old smoked six sixes and as many fours as he stitched defiant alliances of 62 and 68 runs with Bilawal Iqbal (14) and Waqas Maqsood (32), who were dismissed by Abrar Ahmed.
The leg-spinner was the pick of the bowlers for Sindh with four for 40.
At the UBL Sports Complex, a six wicket haul by Northern captain Nauman Ali ensured his team were set a 200-run target to leapfrog their opponents Southern Punjab, the table-toppers. The two sides are tied on points but Southern Punjab lead the points table because of a better net run-rate.
Northern’s run chase will begin on the fourth and final morning of the match.
Valiant half-centuries by Salman Ali Agha and Imran Rafiq helped Southern Punjab post 295 in 93.2 overs.
The pair had come together with the scorecard reading 82 for four and stitched a crucial 137-run partnership that lifted Southern Punjab to 219 for four.
Salman posted the highest score of the innings as he scored 89 off 121 balls in an innings studded with nine fours and a six, while Imran dispatched 11 off the 152 balls he faced towards the boundary on way to his 61.
Nauman recorded his career’s 16th five-wicket haul as he dismissed Saif Badar (15), Imran, Aamer Yamin (25), Zahid Mehmood (0), Umar Khan (23) and Bilawal Bhatti (0).
The other four wickets were shared equally between Munir Riaz, Hammad Azam, Nasir Nawaz and Mohammad Nawaz.
Southern Punjab had begun the day at 19 for no loss.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were on way to what promises to be their third win of the season as their opponents Balochistan were tottering at 164 for six in their chase of a 400-run total at the State Bank Stadium.
Ali Waqas and Awais Zia were the only notable run-getters in the run chase with the scores of 44 and 43, respectively, before they were removed by off-spinner Sajid Khan, who continues to enjoy an impressive run of form.
Mohammad Wasim Jnr was the other bowler to pick two wickets, while his fellow pacers Sameen Gul and Irfanullah Shah took a wicket each.
On the last day of the match, Ayaz Tasawar (17 not out) and Umaid Asif (eight not out) will resume the run-chase. Balochistan need 236 more to win.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were bowled out for 199 after resuming the day on 98 for three as Taj Wali recorded his 16th five-wicket haul.
Israrullah, who scored 86, was the only notable run-getter in the innings. The opener had resumed the day at 50 not out. Over the course of his 144-ball knock, he struck eight fours and two sixes.
With the score of 32, Adil Amin was the next best batsman in the innings.
Scores in brief:
At National Stadium, Sindh elected to bowl (toss uncontested)
Central Punjab 276 all out, 103.2 overs (Usman Salahuddin 80, Ali Zaryab 56, Saad Nasim 44, Mohammad Saad 41, Hasan Ali 26 not out; Tabish Khan 3-37, Mir Hamza 3-58) and 247 all out, 61 overs (Ahmed Safi Abdullah 83 not out, Mohammad Akhlaq 56, Waqas Maqsood 32, Saad Nasim 21; Abrar Ahmed 4-40, Shahnawaz Dhani 3-59, Mohammad Umar 2-56)
Sindh 92 all out, 29.3 overs (Saad Ali 17; Waqas Maqsood 6-25, Bilawal Iqbal 2-17) and 152-4, 50.5 overs (Sharjeel Khan 89, Shehzar Mohammad 26 not out, Saad Ali 24 not out)
First innings points: Central Punjab 8 (two batting, six bowling), Sindh 3 (all bowling)
At UBL Sports Complex, Southern Punjab elected to bat
Southern Punjab 285 all out, 86.3 overs (Umar Siddiq 89, Saif Badar 81, Salman Ali Agha 53, Aamer Yamin 26, Zeeshan Ashraf 25; Sadaf Hussain 3-45, Munir Riaz 2-39, Nauman Ali 2-51) and 295 all out, 93.2 overs (Salman Ali Agha 89, Imran Rafiq 61, Umar Siddiq 34, Aamer Yamin 25, Umar Khan 23, Zeeshan Ashraf 22; Nauman Ali 6-107)
Northern 381 all out, 83 overs (Umar Amin 102, Hammad Azam 91, Mohammad Nawaz 43, Sarmad Bhatti 41, Nasir Nawaz 36, Munir Riaz 23 not out; Zahid Mehmood 4-120, Zia-ul-Haq 2-70)
First innings points: Southern Punjab 5 (two batting, three bowling), Northern 8 (four batting, four bowling)
At State Bank Stadium, Balochistan elected to bowl (toss uncontested)
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 320 all out, 89.5 overs (Kamran Ghulam 153, Rehan Afridi 58, Khalid Usman 27; Khurram Shahzad 4-80, Umaid Asif 3-88, Taj Wali 2-77) and 199 all out (Israrullah 86, Adil Amin 32; Taj Wali 5-57, Jalat Khan 2-36, Khurram Shahzad 2-47)
Balochistan 120 all out, 33 overs (Bismillah Khan 50 not out, Awais Zia 28; Irfanullah Shah 4-41, Mohammad Wasim Jr 3-24, Sameen Gul 3-54) and 164-6, 61 overs (Ali Waqas 44, Awais Zia 43; Sajid Khan 2-34, Mohammad Wasim Jr 2-48)
First innings points: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 9 (three batting, six bowling), Balochistan 3 (all bowling)
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