The first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2020-21 has produced exciting contests. Its penultimate round, beginning Sunday, promises riveting red-ball cricket as the battle to secure the top two positions on the six-team points table, which secures the berths in the five-day final at the National Stadium from 1-5 January, continues to heat up.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa v Central Punjab at National Stadium The two teams are enjoying an impressive run of form as they enter the match at the back of three consecutive wins. The four-day match between them will be broadcast live in Pakistan through PTV Sports and will be beamed across the globe through PCB’s YouTube channel.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with their last win over Southern Punjab by 10 wickets, consolidated their position at the top of the six-team points table and enjoy a 29-point lead over second-ranked Northern.
Their success has been built around solid contributions from Kamran Ghulam and Sajid Khan and their captain Khalid Usman will be hoping that their purple patch stretches into the upcoming round.
Kamran, the 25-year-old right-handed batsman, leads the chart for the batsmen with most runs this season with 873 runs at an average of over 62. He is the only batsman to date to cross the 800-run mark in this edition of the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and all of his three centuries have come in the past three matches.
Off-spinner Sajid has taken as many as 15 wickets in the last two matches, which include a second innings five-wicket haul against Sindh and a first-innings five-wicket haul against Southern Punjab.
After remaining at the bottom of the points table for the first half of the tournament, title defenders Central Punjab have staged an astonishing comeback, which has turned them into a formidable force. Their captain Hasan Ali has been at the forefront of the resurgence with 22 wickets and a blistering 50 not out in the three victories.
Pacer Waqas Maqsood – the leading wicket-taker amongst the pacers with 34 scalps at 20.62 – and Ahmed Safi Abdullah (28 wickets at 24.14) have duly supported their skipper.
Ali Zaryab became the only Central Punjab batsman this season to register a century and the side will be pinning their hopes on the opener along with Usman Salahuddin, the 30-year-old middle-order batsman, who is the team’s leading run-scorer with 525 runs from eight matches.
Northern v Balochistan at UBL Sports Complex: Nauman Ali-captained Northern enter the ninth round of the tournament at the back of splendid batting performances by 18-year-old Mubasir Khan and all-rounder Hammad Azam which helped them retain the second spot on the points table and stay contenders to play the second Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final in as many seasons.