Fading light curtailed play on the second day of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Silver League final at at the Gaddafi Stadium but not before Multan had taken their overnight 326 for 4 against Islamabad to 514 for 9 declared.
Islamabad's hopes of winning the Silver League final and getting promoted to next season's Gold League circuit had already been dented, as their captain Rao Iftikhar and allrounder Azhar Mahmood left for South Africa for the one-day international series. Their pace attack had thus been weakened considerably.
The result was obvious from Multan's 500 plus first-innings score. After their overnight batsman Bilal Khilji added only five more runs to be dismissed for 137 off 274 balls with 23 fours and a six, the lower-order batsmen continued in the same relentless manner.
Allrounder Kamran Hussain hit an exact 50 off 130 balls with eight fours and with Abdul Rauf helped add 61 runs for the eighth wicket. Rauf made 57 runs off just 83 balls with seven fours and two sixes.
Every Multan batsman got into double-figures, except Yasir Arafat, who faced nine balls before getting out for a duck.
At 21 for no wicket at stumps, Islamabad still have a mountain to climb. They need another 294 runs to avoid the ignominy of being forced to follow-on. Multan are hoping to return to the Gold League section next season. In 2005-06, they had finished at the bottom of the circuit's points table and were demoted to the Silver League.
Faisalabad made a strong reply to Karachi Harbour's first-innings score of 366 with 287 for 3 on the second day of their sixth-round Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League match, at the National Stadium on Thursday.
Faisalabad middle-order batsman Naved Latif struck top form as he blasted a quick fire 105 off 130 balls with 15 fours and three sixes. He posted his first-class career's 11th hundred. With captain Misbah-ul-Haq, his third-wicket partnership of 181 runs came in a mere 170 minutes. Misbah missed what would have been his 23rd century by just nine runs. He was dismissed for 91 off 195 balls with 13 fours and a six.
Earlier, the opening stand was worth 58 runs and the second wicket fell on 102. Imran Ali contributed 46 off 71 balls with six fours and a six while Asif Hussain took just 39 balls to score 33 runs with six fours.
The last four Karachi Harbour wickets fell cheaply yesterday morning, colappsing from 323 for 6 to 366 all out. Faisalabad fast bowler Asad Ali finished with figures of 5 for 122 while Ahmed Hayat took 3 for 59. Danish Kaneria, who recently returned from South Africa, conceded 80 runs in his 23 overs without any success.
Faisalabad managed to lift themselves from the bottom position in the table and thus may have averted the ignominy of being demoted to next season's Silver League circuit. They are now only 79 runs behind Karachi with seven wickets in hand.
Karachi Harbour are currently placed at number five in the seven-team Gold League table with a tally of just 12 points, through a win, two defeats and a draw from their four previous appearances. Like Rawalpindi and Peshawar above them, they don't appear to have any chance left to make it to the final.
Defending champions Sialkot appear ready to displace Karachi Urban from the top of the Gold League points table as they bagged a 166-run first-innings lead on the second day at the Jinnah Stadium on Thursday.
Aiming to overhaul Karachi Urban's first-innings total of 164, Sialkot responded strongly with a score of 330 that gave them the advantage. By the close of play, Karachi had made 76 in their second innings for the loss of three wickets. They were still 90 runs in deficit.
Having resumed at their overnight 53 for 0, Sialkot were rattled by Urban pace bowler Rajesh Ramesh who claimed all six wickets as the home side slumped to just 130 for 6, still 34 runs behind. A 132-run seventh-wicket stand then changed the entire complexion of the match.
Middle-order batsman Ayub Dogar scored his maiden first-class century in his 21st match, his 127 combined with a rollicking knock of 77 by wicketkeeper Haafiz Khalid took Sialkot well beyond Karachi's total.
Rajesh didn't take any more wickets and returned figures of 6 for 145 in 22 overs and took a battering from Ayub and Khalid. The tail was polished off by Asif Zakir, who took all the remaining four wickets for 40 runs in 8.5 overs with his off-breaks.
Having lifted themselves from the fifth position in the Gold League table to occupy the second spot last week, Sialkot with 21 points are now looking towards retaining their national cricket title that they won last season. They have assured for themselves a spot in the final from February 19 to 23.
Karachi Urban, with 24 points from their four previous matches, would still remain with a chance to make the final even if they are beaten here by Sialkot. But they will have to defeat Faisalabad in their seventh and last round match starting next week.
Salman Butt played a captain's knock as Lahore Shalimar made 291 for 5 in reply to Rawalpindi's 330 runs at the Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA) Ground .
Butt scored the ninth century of his first-class career and lifted his team's morale with a knock of 166. He was involved in two fruitful partnerships on the way and hit 12 fours and a six. From 38 for 2, he and Imran Farhat, who played in the recent Test series in South Africa, boosted Lahore with an 85-run third-wicket stand.
Farhat scored 42 off 82 balls with nine fours. Butt was then joined by Aamer Sajjad in a fourth-wicket stand that produced 155 runs. Sajjad remained unbeaten on 49 off 111 balls with six fours.
Lahore Shalimar were only 39 runs behind Rawalpindi with five wickets intact. Of their five wickets to fall, fast bowler Yasir Arafat took 3 for 60.
Rawalpindi, who for a while occupied the top spot in the Gold League table, are playing their last match of the competition. They now appear to have lost the battle to make it to the final of the tournament. They have 21 points and are third in the ranking. Lahore Shalimar are already at rock bottom in the table. In case they stay there, they will be demoted to the Silver League circuit of the next season.