- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa confirmed as one of the two finalists; Central Punjab, Northern and Southern Punjab in the race for the other spot
- More details available on PCB’s corporate website www.pcb.com.pk; event hashtags are #QeA20 and #HarHaalMainCricket; for session by session updates, please follow @TheRealPCB_Live
Karachi, 24 December 2020: The ninth round of the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy confirmed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as one of the two finalists. In the 10th and final round of the double-league group-stage, which begins on 26 December, as many as three teams –Central Punjab, Northern and Southern Punjab – will battle for the remaining spot.
Northern v Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at National Stadium
Since topping the six-team points table after the conclusion of the sixth round, Northern have faced two defeats and drawn one match that has seen them slip to the third spot. They are 14 points behind the second-ranked Southern Punjab and will enter the last round after an innings and five runs defeat to Balochistan.
In front of the broadcast cameras at the iconic Test venue, they will be eager to turn this fixture into a dress rehearsal for the final, a five-day affair, which will be played from 1-5 January. If they are successful in making that happen, Northern would appear in the final for the second time in as many seasons.
Hammad Azam and Mohammad Nawaz who are the fourth and fifth highest run-getters in the tournament lead Northern’s batting department. Hammad has accumulated 808 runs at 57.71 and Nawaz has made 678 runs at 52.15.
Captain Nauman Ali continues to spearhead the bowling unit. The 34-year-old left-arm orthodox is the top wicket-taker in the season with 61 scalps at 21.79 runs per dismissal and has the most (six) five-wicket hauls. He is the only bowler from his team to feature in the list of top 10 wicket-takers.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa missed out on playing the final in the 2019-20 edition by a mere six points, but this season, under their head coach Abdul Razzaq, they have become the first team to secure a final berth and have the most wins for a team in the season (five) to date.
Kamran Ghulam’s phenomenal form with the bat has been vital behind their success this season. The 25-year-old right-handed batsman has scored 907 runs at an average of 56.69 and has made three centuries and as many half-centuries from nine matches. He is the only batsman to breach the 900-run mark, to date.
Off-spinner Sajid Khan has been instrumental in dismantling the opposition batting line-ups. With 56 wickets at an average of 24.98, he is the second highest wicket-taker.
Central Punjab v Southern Punjab at State Bank Stadium
Defending champions Central Punjab have staged a remarkable comeback, which has seen them rise from the bottom of the points table and become serious contenders to play their second consecutive final. They are currently ranked fourth with 111 points and are 17 behind their opponents Southern Punjab.
The first-leg of the Punjab Derby ended in a draw, but both teams will be eager to secure the second final’s spot which is set to make this match a mouth-watering contest
Central Punjab’s batsmen Mohammad Saad, Qasim Akram, Saad Nasim and Usman Salahuddin have picked up the form at the crucial juncture of the season. Saad followed up his first innings century with a half-century, while the others scored half-centuries in the last match.
Qasim, a Pakistan U19 player who featured in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup earlier in the year, also made a notable contribution with the ball as his off-spin earned him his maiden five-wicket haul in the drawn contest against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he also scored a valuable fifty in the second innings showcasing his all-round skills.
Southern Punjab were off to a perfect start in the season as they led the points table for the first five rounds before they slipped to third following a defeat to Northern by six wickets. However, two wins in last three matches have gained them back the desired rhythm ahead of the all-important tenth round match.
Their captain Umar Siddiq will be hoping that their most prolific bowler Zahid Mahmood continues to bamboozle the batsmen with his leg-spin. The 33-year-old is the side’s leading wicket-taker with 48 scalps in nine matches.
Salman Ali Agha has been anchoring Southern Punjab’s batting unit as he has made two centuries and five half-centuries and has 817 runs in the season, the third most.
Sindh v Balochistan at UBL Sports Complex
Both teams are out of the race for the final. Their battle, however, will be to save themselves from finishing at the bottom of the points table.
Balochistan, who finished last in the previous season are 17 points ahead of Sindh, who have 85 points, and the latter will have a serious catching up to do.
Balochistan enter the contest at the back of a commanding win over Northern thanks to Kashif Bhatti, who recorded a first innings five-wicket haul to reduce the opposition to 203.
Kashif, the left-arm orthodox, is the side’s top wicket-taker with 28 victims and seventh on the overall list and he is followed by pacer Taj Wali (25 wickets at 29.16).
Akbar-ur-Rehman, with 563 runs at 43.31, is their top batsman in the season.
Though Sindh as a team have not been up to the mark, their players have put extraordinary individual performances. With 871 runs at an average of more than 58, 25-year-old Saud Shakeel is the second best batsman in the season. The list of top 10 batsmen includes Sindh’s Sharjeel Khan (634 runs at 48.77) at seven and their captain Asad Shafiq (605 at 46.54) at nine.
Veteran pacer Tabish Khan has 27 scalps and is the eighth best bowler in the season to date, while the rise of 22-year-old Shahnawaz Dhani and leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed has not only impressed the followers of the game, but it augurs well for Sindh in the coming seasons.
Sindh have only one win, which they recorded against Central Punjab in their season opener.