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October 25, 2020

Central Punjab take on Sindh as Quaid-e-Azam Trophy begins today


October 25, 2020

KARACHI: Central Punjab will begin their title defence when they face Sindh in their opener of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (first-class) 2020-2021 which begins here at the National Stadium on Sunday (today).

In other matches, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will face Balochistan here at the UBL Sports Complex and the last season's runners-up Northern will take on Southern Punjab here at the NBP Sports Complex.

The 31-match event, which will last until the first week of January 2021, will be held entirely in Karachi.

The first three rounds will be played at National Stadium, NBP Sports Complex and UBL Sports Complex before the tournament takes an 11-day break during which the play-offs of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 will be staged. Besides the three venues, State Bank Stadium will also host six matches of the tournament.

The winners of the six-team marquee event will be handed a handsome purse of Rs10 million with the runners-up to take Rs5 million.

The player of the tournament, the best batsman, the best bowler and the best wicketkeeper will pocket Rs500,000 each. The player of the final will be awarded Rs50,000.

With Babar Azam leading Pakistan in the three ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League matches and as many T20Is, Azhar Ali will take charge of the defending champions Central Punjab side, which includes seasoned stumper Kamran Akmal, who finished as the second highest run-getter in the last edition of the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 906 runs at 60.40.

Azhar will also have services of Test off-spinner Bilal Asif, who with 43 wickets from nine matches finished as the second highest wicket-taker in the 2019-20 edition.

After Salman Butt withdrew from the QT, Ali Zaryab has been promoted to Central Punjab’s first XI.

“As defending champions we aim to play with attacking mindset and strategy as it won us the trophy last year,” Central Punjab skipper Azhar Ali said. “We have some exciting youngsters and have retained the core of the side and I am really looking forward to the tournament,” he said.

Sarfraz Ahmed, former Pakistan Test captain, will be eager to see Sindh living up to its potential as they were one of the two teams which failed to register a win last season. They will be banking on Fawad Alam, who was Sindh’s best batsman last year with 781 runs, to provide stability to their batting order which also has Asad Shafiq, Saud Shakeel and Omair Bin Yousuf.

Tabish Khan will spearhead Sindh’s bowling attack in which Mohammad Asghar will lead the spin department.

Sohail Khan is not available for the opening clash due to a throat infection.

“Our aim would be to push for wins and keep ourselves in the contention of a final spot,” Sarfraz said.

Although Haider Ali and Rohail Nazir are with the national side for the Zimbabwe series, Northern possess the desired firepower with Zeeshan Malik, Nasir Nawaz and Hammad Azam providing balance to the side which also includes Umar Amin, Faizan Riaz and Naved Malik. Their captain Nauman Ali leads the bowling unit, which also has Sadaf Hussain, Waqas Ahmed and Tauseeq Shah.

“This year we have an exciting squad that is a good blend of youth and experience,” Northern skipper Nauman Ali said.

Southern Punjab will be hoping for change of fortunes after they finished without a victory in the last season. Their head coach Abdur Rehman has gathered a promising side.

Mohammad Irfan, slow-left arm, will spearhead the spin unit, which has talented youngster Umar Khan and leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood.

Umar Siddiq and stumper Zeeshan Malik are expected to provide stability to their batting order, while all-rounders Aamer Yamin and Hussain Talat will extend support to both departments.

“Southern Punjab have an exciting outfit and we would be aiming to play the final,” Southern Punjab skipper Shan Masood said.

Balochistan, who finished at the bottom last season, will be led by Test leg-spinner Yasir Shah.

“Balochistan will enter the tournament with a positive mindset and approach,” Balochistan captain Yasir Shah said.

The recently-concluded National T20 Cup winners KP will be looking to carry that form in the absence of their star actors.

KP boast of experienced pace battery carrying Junaid Khan, Imran Khan Senior, Usman Khan Shinwari, Sameen Gul and Ahmed Jamal. Sahibzada Farhan, Adil Amin and gloveman Rehan Afridi would consolidate the batting line-up.

“We have a very capable squad that has the right blend of experience and youth,” KP skipper Ashfaq said.