Lahore: The 10th and final round of the 2022-23 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy kicks off at three venues across the country tomorrow (Sunday).
Sindh, second in the points table, will face Balochistan at the LCCA Stadium, Lahore, while South Punjab will play third-placed Punjab in the Punjab derby at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, and North will face bottom club Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Shuaib. Akhtar Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi.
The Sindh-Balochistan clash is of vital importance for the Sindhs who are hoping to play their first final in the prestigious domestic cup since the tournament was renewed as a six-team competition in the 2019-20 season. In the ninth round, Sindh tied with its northern guest at its National Cricket Ground (National Stadium, Karachi).
Sindhi Central are at present breathing Central Punjab down their necks, and the difference between them is just five points – Sindhi is at 118, and Central Punjab has 113 at the close of round nine.
Sindh, led by Saud Shakeel, cannot afford to slip into their final game. Sindh and Central Punjab will play their matches just 100 meters or less apart – LCCA Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium to add another twist to the intriguing Round 10 story.
Sindhi need to look for an outright win or ensure they don’t lag behind Central Punjab in terms of bonus points in case they tie the match, a loss can decide their fate in case of a win or tie for Central Punjab. Bonus points extracted.
Midfielder Punjab, led by Mohammad Saad, played a rain-affected draw against Balochistan at the LCCA Stadium in the previous round. They will have to work hard to press for victory against South Punjab to improve their chances of reaching the final. The two teams drew the first match in the October Punjab derby at the Multan Cricket Ground.
Fifth-placed South Punjab are hoping to salvage something from what was a disappointing season for them with a win, but they are yet to win a game this season having drawn six matches coupled with two defeats. South Punjab played their ninth round match against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Abbottabad.
Northern confirmed their place in the final with a draw against Sindhi and only a major defeat and victories for Sindhi and Central Punjab in Round 10 could halt their progression to the championship decider.
Northern currently has 132 points with three wins and six draws from the first nine rounds. Defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be hoping to upset the top tables to finish high after their worst season yet in the revamped format. They are bottom with just 53 points (three draws, four defeats, two games left).
Openers Abdullah Shafiq – Central Punjab and Muhammad Hurairah – Northern are the only two players to have reached 800 points so far. Abdullah leads the list of bowlers in the tournament with 867 runs at 72.25 (three centuries and four fifties).
Hora who scored 173 and 58 not out against Sindhu in the ninth innings now scored 800 runs at 72.73 (three centuries, two fifties). South Punjab veteran Usman Salahuddin is third with his score of 733 runs at 61.08 (three centuries, three fifties).
Sindh’s Abrar Ahmed continues to baffle leg batsmen this season. Abrar is at the top of the bowling list with 43 wickets in six matches – five five five – at an average of 21.95.
North off-spinner Musabsar Khan is second in the list with 26 wickets in nine matches at 30.15 – one with five not out.
Punjab pacer Muhammad Ali centered at number three with 24 wickets at 25.54 – two offs from five fers.
2022-23 Cricket Associations Championship
South Punjab will face Central Punjab at UBL Sports Complex, Sindh will play Balochistan at NBP Sports Complex and Northern will compete against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at KCCA Stadium in matches starting tomorrow – the tenth and final round.
In the ninth round, North and South Punjab beat Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively.
Central Punjab has collected 170 points and has already secured the championship. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ranks second with 124 points, while South Punjab ranks third with 120 points.