By our correspondent
LAHORE: Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is set to have a new champion as last season’s finalists Northern take on Sindh in the five-day final at the headquarters of Pakistan cricket, Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium from Saturday. Northern have been the finalist twice since the revamp of the domestic system in 2019-20. They would be hoping to make it a case of third time lucky after losing out on the title both in 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons.
Sindh are appearing in their first final under the revamped system. They will be looking forward to clinch second title in this season, after winning their maiden National T20 Cup, held earlier this year in Multan. The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final will be streamed live on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s YouTube channel and broadcast live on PTV Sports. The toss will take place at 0900, while the first ball will be bowled at 0930. This is also the first final to be staged at the GSL since under the new domestic system, Karachi’s National Stadium (now known as the National Bank Cricket Arena) staged the last three Quaid-e-Azam Trophy finals.
Both sides will be missing some key performers in the final as Pakistan’s Test squad begins preparations for the series against England. Northern’s captain Nauman Ali, Sindh captain Saud Shakeel, wicketkeeper-batter Sarfaraz Ahmed and spinners Abrar Ahmed and Zahid Mehmood would all be engaged as members of the Test squad.
Despite the absence of some seasoned and top performers of the ongoing season, the final is set to produce riveting cricket with the teams competing for the historic tournament trophy and the winners’ purse of PKR 10,000,000.
Both captains have meanwhile expressed their desire to lift the trophy at the headquarters of PCB. Khurram Manzoor said, “The players are focused on the final, they have taken one game at a time in the tournament and are looking forward to playing the same brand of cricket in the final.
“We have played quality cricket throughout the tournament, and we are looking to repeat the same to get positive result in the big game.
“It is a great honour for us that four players of our team are currently on national assignment. It is an opportunity for other players to step up and grab the opportunities on offer with both hands.”
Umar Amin said, “Our team have completely dominated the tournament from the start and we are looking to repeat the same performance to lift the trophy. We have kept things very simple, we will try to keep it that way in the final as well to get positive outcome from the big game.
“I am fond of Mohammad Huraira’s temperament and thinking when he is batting. This is a great sign for the team and for Huraira as well that at this age he is scoring runs and that too since last year.”
Central Punjab opener Abdullah Shafique tops the run-getters chart with a tally of 867 runs at 72.25 (three centuries, four fifties). Southern Punjab middle-order batter Usman Salahuddin is a mere five runs behind with 862 runs at 66.31 (four hundreds, three fifties).
Northern’s Mohammad Huraira who topped the batting charts last year (his debut first-class season) can accomplish the feat once again in his young career as he will start the final with 803 runs – needing 65 to overtake Abdullah. Huraira averages 61.77 going into the final, his run tally includes three centuries and two fifties.
In the absence of Saud, Sindh’s pair of Omair Bin Yousuf and Khurram Manzoor would aim to score heavy in the tournament decider. They enter the big match with 604 (average 50.33, three centuries, one fifty) and 602 runs (average 54.73, three centuries, two fifties) to their credit respectively – occupying 11th and 12th spots in the batting charts.
Abrar’s outstanding season has earned him a Test squad spot, the right-arm mystery spinner bagged 43 wickets in a mere 12 innings (average 21.95, five five-wicket hauls) to top the bowling charts. Northern’s all-rounder Mubasir Khan is number two with his off-spin taking 28 wickets in 10 matches at 31.54 (one five-wicket haul). Northern’s seam bowling all-rounder Aamir Jamal is at the third spot with 25 wickets in eight appearances while Sindh’s pacer Muhammad Umar is fifth with 24 wickets in eight games.
Winner – PKR 10,000,000/-
Runner Up – PKR 5,000,000/-
Best Batter – PKR 500,000/-
Best Bowler – PKR 500,000/-
Best Wicketkeeper – PKR 500,000/-
Player of the Tournament – PKR 500,000/-
Player of the final – PKR 50,000/-
Field Umpires – Rashid Riaz and Faisal Afridi
TV Umpire – Waleed Yaqoob
Reserve Umpire – Ghaffar Kazmi
Referee – Muhammad Javed