Having two powerhouses in the final is hardly a big surprise. In the last four years, SNGPL have reached the final for the third time, while WAPDA look to defend their crown. Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament has failed to capture the public’s interest, even though the bowlers have enjoyed considerable success with the Duke ball and some fairly wild pitches.
Title aspirations aside, both teams’ players will look for personal glory, too. Salman Butt has failed to make a national comeback, and will have every reason to stake his claim once more. With Junaid Khan’s injury sidelining him for the New Zealand tour, Mohammad Irfan once again becomes a strong candidate to replace him, while Kamran Akmal has another opportunity to showcase his dominance on the domestic circuit.
SNGPL’s campaign has seen them appoint three captains – Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Hafeez. They have been undefeated all season, their side boasting international stars like Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Abbas and Asad Shafiq. They go into the final as favourites, having barely put a foot wrong all season.
In the spotlight
WAPDA’s fast bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Waqas Maqsood. WAPDA captain Salman Butt took the unusual step of resting his pacers on the final day of their Super 8 game after realising they had already qualified. It ended up with them losing what was by then a dead rubber. If Asif and Maqsood – who have 66 wickets between them this season – play a part in their side retaining the trophy, Butt’s move will look like a masterstroke. But in the event of an adverse outcome, it could be cited as a decision that stuttered their momentum. Either way, the spotlight is firmly on the pair, and indeed their captain.
SNGPL’s batting line-up contains Pakistan’s two best first-class batsmen in Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq. Yet, they will have to bounce back from an extraordinary last game that saw the first three innings end only in double figures, before SNGPL chased down 70 to seal their spot in the final. They will look to perform better with the bat in what will be a five-day game, and Azhar and Shafiq will be cruicial to their prospects.
WAPDA are expected to field the same side that played their previous game. Mohammad Saad, the second-highest scorer in the tournament, has seen his form tail away in the latter stages of the competition, and will be keen to bounce back.
WAPDA (probable): 1 Salman Butt (capt), 2 Zahid Mansoor, 3 Bismillah Khan (wk), 4 Mohammad Saad, 5 Aamer Sajjad, 6 Khushdil Shah, 7 Mansoor Amjad, 8 Khalid Usman, 9 Waqas Maqsood, 10 Mohammad Asif, 11 Hasnain Shah
SNGPL have been a bit more uncertain as far as their selection goes, with their captaincy changing hands. There was speculation that Misbah might return for the final, but he put those rumours to bed, saying he did not want to disrupt a settled side. That might suggest an unchanged side for them, too.
SNGPL (possible): 1 Azhar Ali, 2 Ali Waqas, 3 Khurram Shehzad, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Imran Khalid, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Mohammad Rizwan (capt & wk), 8 Mohammad Imran, 9 Samiullah Khan, 10 Azizullah, 11 Mohammad Abbas