A combative century by captain Imran Nazir helped Sialkot avoid the blushes and keep their hopes alive in the four-day match for Mohammed Nissar Trophy against Ranji champions Uttar Pradesh at the HPCA stadium here today.
Tottering at 89 for 5 in reply to UP's first innings total of 316, Sialkot found its man Friday in injured captain Nazir who cracked a 113-ball 123 single-handedly helped the visitor avoid the follow-on.
The Qaid-e-Azam winners eventually ended up at 261, conceding a first innings lead of 65.
At stumps on the second day, Uttar Pradesh were 14 for no loss with Rohit Prakash on six and Shiv Kant Shukla on seven at the crease.
Nazir's effort was all the more commendable since he sprained his right shoulder and received stitches for a cut in the wrist while fielding.
He retired hurt after facing the first delivery of the Sialkot innings, aggravating the injury while defending against Rudra Pratap Singh.
However, seeing his team in neck-deep water, Nazir returned to the crease after the fall of the sixth wicket and revived the team's hopes with a 122-run partnership with Tahir Mughal (29).
Nazir set the stadium ablaze by hitting 16 fours and five towering sixes, including two fours and a six off RP Singh in an over and three consecutive boundaries and two sixes off Piyush Chawla, that competed with the awesome heights of the Dhaula Dhar mountains.
Praising the knock, Sialkot coach Azmat Rana said, "this is the first I have seen Imran play so well. Unfortunately others did not do enough."
Before Nazir's blitzkreig, it was a forgettable performance by the Pakistani outfit as UP bowlers wreaked havoc with their combination of pace and spin.
After RP Singh provided the early breakthrough by removing Shahid Yousuf, who made 24 off 24 balls, the young tandem of pacer Pravin Kumar (3/69) and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (3/85) brought nightmares to the opposition batsmen.
Earlier, Rizwan Shamshad (84) added 24 runs to his overnight score and saw Uttar Pradesh get past the 300-run mark before being trapped by left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman.
Shamshad, who hit only four fours in his 193-ball innings, had a useful 37-run partnership with RP Singh (15) to strengthen their hold on the match.
UP got a huge gift from their rivals as they gave away as many as 51 runs as extras, which included 24 byes owing to the unavailability of their regular wicketkeeper Khalid Mahmood who was not fully fit.