Second round of first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy promises absorbing action
The first round of the four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2020-21 produced quality cricket as both batsmen and bowlers made the most of the conditions on offer. Four centuries and four five-wicket hauls were recorded across the three matches.
The second round, which begins on Saturday, promises absorbing cricket with players back in red-ball rhythm. All eyes will be at the National Stadium, where Balochistan and Southern Punjab face-off after securing comprehensive wins in their tournament openers.
Shan Masood’s Southern Punjab will be high on confidence coming into the fixture, which will be broadcast live and relayed all over the globe through the PCB’s YouTube channel.
They were the only side to bag the maximum batting and bowling bonus points as they crossed the 400-run mark and dismissed the opposition under 200 inside 100 overs. Out of the four centuries scored, two were from Southern Punjab batsmen as their captain Shan Masood made 134 and Hussain Talat stroked his way to a maiden double-century with 253.
Shan will continue to rely on leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood, who spun his side to a commanding win by a margin of an innings and 96 runs inside three days. The 32-year-old Dadu-born returned match figures of 10-98.
Their opponents, Balochistan, led by Yasir Shah, who holds the record for being the fastest bowler to 200 Test wickets in terms of matches, enter the second round on the back of a comfortable 186-run win.
Similar to Southern Punjab, they collected the maximum bowling points on offer as the pair of pacer Khurram Shehzad (5-27) and the captain himself (4-94) bundled out Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for a paltry 167 in reply to their first innings 362, which had been made possible because of wicketkeeper-batsman Bismillah Khan’s third first-class century and Kashif Bhatti’s 126-ball 98.
Yasir finished the contest with eight wickets as he combined with Bhatti, the left-arm orthodox, to win the match for his side in the morning session of the final day.
After securing a thrilling victory over rivals Central Punjab on the verge of stumps on the final day, Sindh move to UBL Sports Complex to take on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who gained only two points and faced a defeat in the first round.
While it was the century and a five-wicket haul by veterans Fawad Alam and Tabish Khan which turned the match into Sindh’s favour, what augurs well for the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led team is the fact that youngsters such as Mohammad Asghar, Omair Bin Yousuf, Saud Shakeel and Hasan Mohsin made notable contributions in the second innings.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who are led by Ashfaq Ahmed, their highest run-getter in the last four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Sajid Khan shone with the ball, while batsmen Adil Amin and Kamran Ghulam put up a fight. They, however, will be hoping for more of their players to step up in their second round fixture.
The NBP Sports Complex will host Central Punjab and Northern fixture. Azhar Ali, the captain of Central Punjab, made a brave decision to put Sindh into bat with 50 overs left on the final day to chase 212 runs, which the Sarfaraz’s team surmounted with six wickets to spare.
Despite the defeat, there was, however, silver lining for the defending champions with Mohammad Saad scoring two half-centuries and Ahmed Shehzad marking his return to competitive cricket after an injury with a 155-ball 69.
Fast bowler Hasan Ali, also returning from an injury, bowled as many as 32.3 overs over the course of the four days and left-arm pacer Waqas Maqsood finished the contest with five wickets.
Northern captain Nauman Ali and head coach Mohammad Wasim must have used the two-day break to chalk down plans for the second round fixture after facing a thumping defeat.
Their notable performers in the opening match were captain himself, Nauman, who took four wickets, and all-rounder Hammad Azam, who showed resistance with a 117-ball 79 when Northern were following-on.
Northern are positioned at the bottom of the table with just two points – which they collected for taking Southern Punjab’s more than six wickets inside 100 overs in the first innings – Central Punjab, with three points (one batting and two bowling) are positioned at fourth.
Both Azhar and Nauman will be eager to bag 16 points for outright win to undo the errors of the previous outings.
Second round fixtures (31 Oct – 3 Nov), Karachi: