KARACHI: The seeded quintet of Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Bilal, Babar Masih, Majid Ali and Zulfiqar Abdul Qadir stormed into the quarter-finals but holder Asjad Iqbal was eliminated in the pre-quarter-finals of the NBP Ranking Snooker Championship here at the NBP Sports Complex on Friday.
The unseeded trio of Aakash Rafique, Muhammad Ijaz and Sharjeel Mahmood also forced their way into the last-eight by overcoming their rivals in pre-quarters.
All the four quarter-finals will be played simultaneously on Saturday (today). Top seeded Asif will lock horns eighth seed Zulfiqar, second seed Bilal will clash with third seed Babar, fourth seed Majid will meet Sharjeel and Aakash will take on Ijaz.
As many as six pre-quarter-finals went to eight or nine frames; one was decided after seven frames; and only one in six frames. None of the eight pre-quarters was decided in straight frames.
Top seeded Asif, who had a smooth sailing in the league matches, had to bring all his expertise into play to overcome veteran Khurram 5-3 with the frame scores of 45-64, 59-65, 98-0, 124-0, 130-1, 1-129, 74-34, 80-36.
The 2012 world champion was trailing by a couple of frames before he opened his account with a classy break of 98 in the third frame. He followed it up with breaks of 67 and 70 frames in the next couple of frames to move 3-2 up.
Khurram, a former Asia number three, reproduced his top form to compile a superb break of 129 in the sixth frame to draw level. But Asif chalked up a break of 55 in the seventh frame and sealed the fate of the match by taking the eighth frame as well.
Second seed Bilal was also made to work hard by unseeded Umair Alam but he eventually won it 5-3 with the scores of 59-58, 48-56, 17-66, 70-97, 109-16, 97-0, 71-38, 69-4. He showed his master class and constructed breaks of 108 and 66 in successive frames.
Third seed Babar too was stretched by unseeded Rambail Gul before he pocketed the game 5-3 with the scores of 29-56, 68-7, 61-15, 66-21, 33-62, 72-11, 0-100 70-4. The enigmatic Rambail fired a break of 100 in the seventh frame but Babar sneaked into the last-eight by running away with the eighth frame.
Fourth seed Majid didn’t have a smooth ride either. He, however, managed to defeat the unseeded Sirbuland Khan 5-3 with the scores of 78-2, 27-62, 68-28, 4-6, 100-21, 72-36, 45-75, 80-0. Majid wrapped up the issue with a break of 51.
Eighth seed Zulfiqar survived some anxious moments before edging out unseeded Haris Tahir 5-4 with the frame scores of 76-18, 107-1, 13-58, 66-27, 68-28, 4-70, 37-63, 42-66, 63-23. He registered a break of 107 in the second frame.
The encounter between the unseeded duo of Aakash and Muhammad Shahbaz, also going to the full distance of nine frames, lasted nearly five hours with the former winning it 5-4 with the scores of 28-70, 82-20, 65-46, 58-34, 10-75, 73-44, 46-58, 14-57, 88-32.
Unseeded Sharjeel dethroned Asjad, whipping him 5-2 with the frame scores of 51-50, 54-43, 0-81, 35-68, 70-50, 76-44, 78-40. Ijaz was even more ruthless in blasting Asif Toba, a former national champion, 5-1 with the scores of 61-49, 32-70, 119-0, 54-39, 70-61, 65-32.