KARACHI: The fourth round of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (first-class) will resume here on Friday (today) with Southern Punjab leading the six-team event with 55 points and defending champions Central Punjab trailing at the bottom with 16 points.
Following the announcement of the 35-player contingent for the New Zealand tour, the six head coaches have recomposed their squads by promoting top performers from Second XI teams, picking reserve players or selecting a maximum of three of those cricketers from the other associations who are yet to feature in first-class cricket this season.
Central Punjab had batsman Tayyab Tahir transferred from Southern Punjab.
With Azhar Ali, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shan Masood going to New Zealand later this week, Hasan Ali, Asad Shafiq and Umar Siddiq will lead Central Punjab, Sindh and Southern Punjab, respectively.
Southern Punjab will take on fourth placed Sindh here at the National Stadium. Southern Punjab won their first two matches before losing their last match to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by 75 runs.
The Umar Siddiq-led side will hope to continue their domination. Besides Umar, the Southern Punjab management will be pinning hopes on Zeeshan Ashraf, Saif Babar, Mukhtar Ahmed and vice-captain Imran Rafique.
The squad includes an accomplished bowling line-up, which is led by Bilawal Bhatti and includes Mohammad Ilyas, Dilbar Hussain and Zahid Mahmood, who has collected 20 wickets in the tournament so far.
Asad Shafiq-led Sindh (36 points) have lost Sarfaraz, Fawad Alam and Sohail Khan as the trio is part of the New Zealand-bound squads. Saud Shakeel, who smashed a brilliant 174 in Sindh’s loss to Northern, will be there to support Asad in the top-order.
The seasoned Tabish Khan will lead the attack which also has Mir Hamza and Shahnawaz Dahani. Shahnawaz and leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed have been picked from Sindh Second XI squad.
Third-placed Balochistan will play host to second-placed Northern at the National Bank Sports Complex. Balochistan have won one game, drawn one and lost one match so far to collect 44 points. Imran Farhat will lead the side. Balochistan will also not have Imran Butt, who is going to New Zealand.
Farhat will bank on Azeem Ghumman, Akbar-ur-Rehman (both promoted from Balochistan Second XI) and Taimur Ali.
The Balochistan squad includes Umaid Asif, Taj Wali and Usama Mir as experienced bowlers.
Nauman Ali-led Northern (52 points) will once again be relying on their prolific captain. Nauman has taken 25 wickets.
Nauman will look to Salman Irshad, Muhammad Nawaz, Waqas Ahmed and Hammad Azam to provide him bowling support.
Asif Ali, Ali Sarfaraz and Umar Amin will lead the batting line with the departure of Zeeshan Malik to New Zealand. Nasir Nawaz has been promoted from the Northern Second XI.
Central Punjab are set to lock horns with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the UBL Sports Complex. Captain Hasan Ali will spearhead the bowling attack which also has Ehsan Adil, Waqas Maqsood, Bilawal Iqbal and Bilal Asif.
Central Punjab still have batting prowess in Ahmed Shehzad, Usman, and Saad Naseem.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, led by Khalid Usman, are placed fifth with 33 points, having won one, lost one and drawn one game. Vice-captain Israrullah, Adil Amin, Musadiq Ahmed and Mehran Ibrahim (elevated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Second XI) will be hoping to make big runs.
Their bowling attack is led by Imran Khan Senior and also has Sameen Gul and Arshad Iqbal. Off-spinner Sajid Khan, who took 22 wickets in the first three rounds, will be the trump card for his captain.
Adnan Akmal will miss the fourth round after testing positive for coronavirus.
Kamran Akmal will be travelling to Sri Lanka for Lanka Premier League. Sami Aslam has informed his team management that he is not available due to “personal reasons”.