Quetta braces to host maiden first-class match in 11 years

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First-class cricket will return to Quetta after a gap of 11 years when the second round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy begins on Saturday. Home side Balochistan will take on Southern Punjab in a much-anticipated match, which will start at 10am.

This will be the first of the four first-class matches the picturesque Bugti Stadium will stage this season.

To create opportunities for fans in Quetta to witness top-quality cricket in-person and promote the game in the region, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will open the gates of the Bugti Stadium.

The event trophy also landed in Quetta on Thursday to provide fans an up-close and personal experience with the prestigious silverware.

After the first round, Balochistan have seven points, while Shan Masood-captained Southern Punjab is on 11 Points.

In the absence of Imam-ul-Haq, who scored a 352-ball 152 in his side’s only innings, and Haris Sohail, Balochistan will be captained by Imran Farhat, who had led Habib Bank Limited to the title last season while also finishing as the second highest run-getter with 744 runs in 11 matches.

After a fabulous start to his 2019-20 season, Southern Punjab will hope Sami Aslam carries his batting form to Quetta. He had scored 243 not out and 50 not out in a Punjab Derby contest at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.

Fourth-placed Sindh will play their second consecutive game at the UBL Sports Complex in Karachi as they host leaders Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while Central Punjab will travel to Faisalabad to host Northern at the Iqbal Stadium in a live-streamed contest.

Sindh will be captained by Sarfaraz Ahmed’s deputy Asad Shafiq, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be captained by Sahibzada Farhan in the absence of Mohammad Rizwan who will also be replaced by Rehan Afridi behind the wickets.

With their captain Babar Azam and vice-captain Ahmed Shehzad in Lahore for the probables camp, former captain Azhar Ali will lead Central Punjab, who have 11 points, in their home match against Umar Amin-led Northern. Central Punjab will call-up players from their Second XI side and reserve pool as Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Umar Akmal are also attending the probables camp in Lahore.

The Umar-led Northern, placed fifth with eight points, will also analyse the pool of players to fill in the vacuum in their bowling department, created by the absence of Shadab Khan, captain Imad Wasim and Usman Khan Shinwari.

Three-day Quaid-e-Azam Tournament

Meanwhile, Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, is hosting a Second XI game between Northern and Central Punjab after the second round of the three-day tournament began on Friday.

Balochistan and Southern Punjab are playing at Dring Stadium, Bahawalpur. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh are locking horns in Karachi at NBP Stadium.