KARACHI: Giant-killer Muhammad Ijaz staged an incredible fight-back to stun third seed Babar Masih in the marathon final of NBP Ranking Snooker Championship here at the NBP Sports Complex on Monday.
Trailing 2-6 in the best-of-15-frame encounter, the unseeded Ijaz, making his maiden appearance in the final of any national ranking tournament, pulled it back dramatically to win the all-Punjab final 8-6 with the scores of 43-63, 78-42, 21-83, 39-93, 94-20, 20-79, 58-67, 17-57, 68-45, 58-51, 56-40, 62-1, 58-02, 77-50.
Hailing from Sargodha, the 30-year-old Ijaz kept his cool and never lost belief in himself. “I was indeed concerned at having gone to interval 2-6 down,” he remarked in a brief conversation with ‘The News’ after winning the title.
“I kept saying to myself that it’s just matter of one frame to turn the tables. Thankfully I won the very first frame after resumption and I didn’t let the momentum slip out of my hands,” he added.
“Indeed it was a very tough match for me but I never lost hope,” said Ijaz, younger brother of three-time national champion and former world number two Muhammad Sajjad.
The 31-year-old Babar, a seasoned cueist from Rawalpindi, was disconsolate at having let the trophy get out of his hands from a vantage position. “I really don’t know how it happened. I was supremely confident about running away with the title when the interval was announced at which point I was leading 6-2. It looked a matter of time for me to complete my victory,” he said.
“I was unable to exercise much control in the latter half of the match. Indeed it’s disappointing to have lost the match which I should have won comfortably,” he said.
The first half of the final was all about Babar as he fired breaks of 62 and 81 in successive frames. Ijaz did win the second and the fifth frames but he seemed down and out when his opponent won the next three frames on a trot to move 6-2 up.
Ijaz was the deserving champion in the end, signing off with a superlative break of 54 in the 14th frame. National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) president Saeed Ahmed presented a cheque of Rs100,000 to Ijaz alongwith the glittering trophy.
Babar had to be content with a purse of Rs40,000 with the runner-up trophy. Top seeded Muhammad Asif, who was edged out by the eventual champion in the semi-finals, collected Rs5000 for registering the highest break (138) of the nine-day event.
Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) president Munawwar Hussain Shaikh and co-chairman Alamgir Anwar Shaikh addressed the ceremony which was also attended by the top NBP officials, including Iqbal Qasim and Shaukat Mahmood Khattak.