KARACHI: Third seed Babar Masih and unseeded Muhammad Ijaz stormed into final of the NBP Ranking Snooker Championship, beating fourth seed Majid Ali and top seed Muhammad Asif, respectively, in the semi-finals here at the NBP Sports Complex on Sunday.
The best-of-15-frame final, to be an all-Punjab affair, is scheduled to commence at 10am on Monday (today). The 30-year-old Ijaz, hailing from Sargodha, created the biggest upset of the competition by edging out Asif, a former world champion, 6-5 with the frame scores of 65-42, 71-0, 32-74, 80-32, 53-43, 34-66, 53-65, 16-87, 74-29, 40-70, 64-33.
Babar, coming from Rawalpindi, tamed Majid, a youngster from Samundari, 6-3 with the scores of 68-39, 72-37, 61-72, 58-35, 8-97, 49-51, 71-8, 63-53, 80-43.
The first semi-final, featuring Asif and Ijaz, went to the full distance of 11 frames and lasted no less than five hours.
The semi-final between Babar and Majid was deadlocked at three-all but the former won the next three frames on a trot to settle the issue rather leisurely in the end.
Ijaz, younger brother of Muhammad Sajjad, three times national champion and a former world number two, played exceptionally well to keep the free-flowing Asif in check before ultimately knocking him out of the competition.
Asif, who is also the reigning national champion, was unable to play his natural game and to chalk up any substantial break other than one of 71 in the third frame.
Ijaz sounded a warning to his fancied rival by running away with the first couple of frames. Asif fought back to take the third frame but Ijaz won the next two to make it 4-1.
Asif had to bring his big match temperament into play as he recovered ground to win the next three frames which made the contest four-all.
Ijaz turned it around by pocketing the crucial ninth frame but Asif refused to give up and made it five-all by winning the tenth frame.
The decisive 11th frame saw intense battle which Ijaz managed to win, not getting overawed by the occasion.
The following encounter between Babar and Majid proceeded in a similar manner.
Babar clinched the first two frames but Majid stuck to the task by running away with the fiercely fought third frame. Babar regained two-frame lead by taking the fourth one but Majid responded with a masterly break of 97 in the fifth frame to make it 2-3.
Parity was restored when Majid also won the sixth frame after another tense battle. With three frames all it was anybody’s game.
Babar, however, didn’t let the game drift away from him from this point and he was in complete command after winning the eighth frame which took him to 5-3 lead. His break of 74 saw off Majid in the ninth frame.