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Quaid-e-Azam Trophy fifth round begins today


November 26, 2020

KARACHI: The fifth round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (first-class) will begin here at different venues on Thursday (today).

Here at the UBL Sports Complex the table toppers Southern Punjab face bottom-placed and defending champions Central Punjab.

This is the first time the two Punjab outfits are going to clash this season.

While Umar Siddiq-led Southern Punjab will be looking to further consolidate their position at the top of the points table, Central Punjab will hope that this fixture brings the much-desired change in their fortunes.

Central Punjab’s batting department has failed to live up to the expectations. Their highest run-getter this season has been Azhar Ali, who is currently positioned ninth in the list of the batsmen with most runs with 269 runs in six innings and is in New Zealand with the national team.

Their next best batsman has been Mohammad Saad, who with three half-centuries in eight innings has scored 265 runs at an average of just over 33. Usman Salahuddin is the team’s third highest scorer with 231 runs at 28.88 runs per dismissal.

Their bowling chart is led by 22-year-old left-arm orthodox Ahmed Safi Abdullah (18 wickets at 18.17) and pacer Waqas Maqsood (14 wickets at 24.50). Central Punjab’s all five points from their last match were bowling bonus points. Their bowling unit is further strengthened with the return of Hasan Ali.

Southern Punjab’s bowling unit has been spearheaded by 32-year-old Dadu-born Zahid Mehmood who has 25 scalps – including a five-wicket haul – at 20.80 runs per wicket. Zahid is currently the third highest-wicket taker in the tournament, one place ahead of Ahmed Safi.

Salman Ali Agha and opener Zain Abbas were amongst the run-getters for Southern Punjab in their fourth round fixture as the two batsmen scored valiant half-centuries besides the fourth innings defiance showed by Saif. Their captain Umar Siddiq will be hoping that the pair displays the same grit when they take the field against Central Punjab.

Meanwhile, here at the National Stadium, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will lock horns with Northern.

Following a remarkable five-wicket win over Central Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa travel to National Stadium to play Northern, who are positioned second on the points table.

The fixture serves a great opportunity to the cricketers in both teams to showcase their talent to fans in Pakistan and all over the world as the contest will be beamed across the globe through PCB’s YouTube channel.

Sajid Khan, who paved the way for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s five-wicket win over Central Punjab in the last round, tops the bowling chart with 32 wickets at an average of 21.09. The 27-year-old off-spinner has three five-wicket hauls from four matches.

KP’s Adil Amin scored his third half century in the previous fixture and captain Khalid Usman contributed a brilliant 92 not out in the first innings following a batting collapse. Adil is currently the sixth highest run-getter in the tournament with 323 runs.

Musaddiq Ahmed has been their other notable performer since his promotion from the Second XI. The right-handed batsman has scored 173 runs, which includes a half-century, at an average of 43.25.

Northern’s all-rounder Hammad Azam has been in form with the bat as he has smashed a century and four half-centuries in seven innings. He averages a staggering 68.33 and has accumulated 410 runs. He is the second best batsman in terms of runs in the tournament to date.

Umar Amin, his teammate, is positioned two places beneath him with 340 runs. He scored a century in his most recent outing to save his side from a certain defeat after they were 62 for four with a 223-run partnership with Mohammad Nawaz, who made 95. The duo laid the foundations of a thrilling finish as the match ended with Northern mere eight runs away from the target.

While their captain Nauman Ali will be hoping for the same returns with the bat from the three experienced cricketers, the slow-left arm will be eager to leapfrog Sajid as the highest wicket-taker as the two have a difference of only three wickets between them. Both bowlers have three five-wicket hauls.

At the SBP Ground, Balochistan meet Sindh in what could be an exciting game, the first between the two in this season.

Sindh’s batting department received a massive boost as three of their batsmen – captain Asad Shafiq, Omair Bin Yousuf and Sharjeel Khan – recorded centuries in their last match, while Saud Shakeel stroked an impressive 70 not out.

That Asad and Sharjeel, who scored a first-class century after a gap of almost seven years, are back in form augurs well for Sindh as it not only promises heaps of runs in the coming rounds, but also takes the pressure off the youngsters, allowing them to express themselves freely.

Tabish Khan continues to spearhead Sindh’s bowling attack. The right-arm pacer has 14 wickets from four matches, which includes a five-fer. The young duo of pacer Shahnawaz Dahani and spinner Abrar Ahmed will be aiming to make most of another opportunity after impressing in the match against Southern Punjab.

For Balochistan, slow-left arm Kashif Bhatti has been at the forefront of their bowling attack. The 34-year-old has taken 16 wickets at an average of 31. He has also been instrumental with the bat as he has smacked three half-centuries, scoring 241 runs at an average of over 40. Taimur Ali has been the other notable run-getter with 250 runs at an average of 50.