LAHORE: Umar Gul faints in the heat
The Quaid-e-Azam (QeA) trophy, Pakistan’s “premier” first-class cricket competition (the inverted commas are necessary). Once, and arguably still, the backbone of Pakistan’s international team, the competition has been shuffled and shunted around the calendar, and this year began on the first day of September – the earliest start to a QeA season since 1969 – in blistering heat and suffocating humidity.
It was all too much for Habib Bank’s 34-year old Umar Gul, who, after sending down nine overs, collapsed and fainted on the field. He later recovered, and even returned to bowl 15.5 overs in the second innings for his side, taking two wickets to add to his three in the first innings, helping HBL to a seven-wicket victory.
The fourth-innings chase of 137 might have got tricky, but a special knock from out-of-favour batsman Umar Akmal ensured there would be no collapse. He scored 87 off 84 balls to ensure HBL opened their season with a win.
This is not a storeroom.This is LCCA ground’s dressing room currently hosting first class match between SNGPL&Lahore whites.Six test players are playing in this match.I think players deserve better than this.Outfield and pitch is also not encouraging for cricket. pic.twitter.com/xpJ8RMSkkF
— Misbah Ul Haq (@captainmisbahpk) September 2, 2018
Damning video footage exposes dereliction
While most people assumed facilities at the QeA weren’t up to the standard of a first-class competition in a major cricketing country like Pakistan, the grisly footage Misbah-ul-Haq and Imran Farhat shoved in our faces over the past few days would have appalled even the most hardened of cynics.
Misbah’s video was shot in the dressing room of the LCCA ground, which hosted the game between Lahore Whites and SNGPL. The footage showed squalid toilets with worn tiling, paint peeling off damp walls that had mould growing on them. In the two rooms directly in front of the toilets, several kitbags were sprawled; they might last have had a maintenance call before Misbah made his debut, such was the state of dereliction. There was no air-conditioning, one solitary ceiling fan hummed half-heartedly in what would have been a sweltering room for 22 people to sit in.
Farhat, the captain of HBL, shared his own footage from the Diamond Club Ground in Islamabad, exposing similarly filthy conditions. In addition, several players, including Farhat, had to go to a hospital after getting bitten by bugs, apparently on the Diamond Club premises.
Departments dominate but Peshawar triumph
While the first round of the QeA trophy followed the familiar pattern of departmental teams dominating regional ones, Peshawar were an exception. They were the only regional side to triumph against a department in the opening round, thanks to a fourth-innings collapse from Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). Set 177 to win, KRL imploded, with only three batsmen reaching double figures, and the whole team failing to reach three figures as they were skittled out for 98. They had left-arm fast bowler Taj Wali to thank, who took nine wickets in the match.
Elsewhere, Lahore Whites began strongly, holding last year’s champions and traditional powerhouse SNGPL to a draw. After dismissing Asad Shafiq’s side for 253, they responded with 341 on the back of an unbeaten 153 from Usman Salahuddin. Salahuddin was called up for Pakistan’s tour of Ireland and England earlier this summer and while he didn’t play, this innings certainly hasn’t hurt his chances.
Moreover, since Lahore Whites took the first-innings lead, they finished with three points, while SNGPL were yet to open their account.