KARACHI: Third seed Babar Masih edged out second seed Muhammad Bilal in the quarter-finals of the 10th NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 here at the NBP Sports Complex on Saturday.
In the other quarter-finals, top seeded Muhammad Asif smashed eighth seed Zulfiqar Abdul Qadir, fourth seed Muhammad Majid Ali beat unseeded Sharjeel Mahmood while Muhammad Ijaz whacked Aakash Rafique in the contest between two unseeded cueists.
Both the semi-finals will be played on Sunday (today). Asif, the reigning national champion, will be taking on Ijaz, who has been the surprise package of the competition, in the first pre-final due to start at 10am while Babar will confront Majid in the other semi-final, scheduled to commence at 12:30pm.
As expected, the battle between Babar and Bilal, two of the top ranked cueists of the country, turned out to be the most absorbing quarter-final and it went to the wire with the former succeeded in winning it 5-4 with the frame scores of 80-43, 41-67, 55-62, 9-62, 64-29, 84-42, 73-49, 35-69, 76-26.
Babar drew the first blood but Bilal won the next three frames on a trot to move 3-1 up in the best of nine encounter. Then Babar clinched three successive frames to go into 4-3 lead.
Bilal, unable to play his free flowing game, drew level by pocketing the eighth frame but he was unable to come to terms with his fiercely determined rival in the decisive ninth frame.
There was no such drama, however, in the other quarter-final. Asif, a former world champion, easily overwhelmed Zulfiqar, a local youngster, 5-1 with the scores of 79-33, 55-69, 62-25, 76-18, 83-16, 76-20.
Asif lived up to his big reputation and chalked up breaks of 53, 72, 82 and 76 to completely overshadow his inexperienced rival.
Fourth seed Majid was made to work extremely hard before he finally defeated Sharjeel 5-3 with the frame scores of 69-21, 54-41, 36-68, 79-45, 16-66, 69-16, 31-65, 68-1.
Majid got off to a confident start by taking the first couple of frames. Sharjeel, who had dethroned Asjad Iqbal the other day, fired a break of 62 in the fifth frame to make it 2-3 and the match was wide open once more.
It was the lack of consistency which didn’t allow the unseeded Sharjeel to march ahead further. He chalked up a break of 65 in the seventh frame but he was at sea in the sixth and eighth frames which threw him out of the competition.
Unseeded Ijaz, who is the younger brother of the more illustrious cueist Muhammad Sajjad — three-times national champion and a former world number two — extended his dream run by toppling Aakash Rafique in straight frames with the scores of 57-56, 64-10, 68-22, 60-8, 65-1.
After a closely contested opening frame which he won narrowly, Ijaz was in complete control of the proceedings and he didn’t let his opponent stage a comeback. He signed off with a classy break of 61 to advance to the semi-finals.