A century from skipper Hasan Raza accompanied by some fine seam bowling from Rajesh Ramesh and Imran Javed enabled Karachi Urban to take full control of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League final against defending champions Sialkot at Multan Cricket Stadium. Raza's hundred, the 28th of his first-class career, saw Karachi to 403, before Sialkot were reduced to 93 for five by day's end.
Honours began almost even on the second day, Karachi six wickets down with 249 on the board. But Raza, on a painstaking 56 not out overnight, switched gears early on. Though Karachi lost two early wickets, with less than 300 scored, Raza found a useful partner in Tanvir Ahmed. The two put on 97 for the ninth wicket, Ahmed's share a not insubstantial 36.
By the end, Raza had moved to an unbeaten 161, with as many as seven sixes and thirteen fours, a stark contrast to his go-slow yesterday. Sarfraz Ahmed took two of the four remaining wickets to finish with an admirable six-wicket haul.
The momentum though had shifted by then and Sialkot, once hoping to face a total of under 300, were now left with a mini-mountain to overcome. They got off to the worst possible start, Ramesh dismissing Majid Jahangir and highly-rated Shahid Yousuf in successive balls when Sialkot were only on 14.
Thereafter, it didn't get much better; Tariq Mahmood, former Pakistan U-19 World Cup winner and offspinner with the Murali action, was promoted up the order and crawled to a 44-ball, 76-minute two. Javed eventually sent him back, as well as Atiq-ur-Rehman who provided solitary, futile resistance. When Ayub Dogar also fell, Sialkot were tottering at 71 for five. Ijaz Ahmed, captain and former Pakistan one-down legend, came out firing and was unbeaten on 19 as the day drew to a close.
He will need to roll back the years if Sialkot are to have any chance of preventing Karachi from adding to their record Quaid haul of 17 wins.