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This first-class season has produced some exciting contests and outstanding individual performances and the penultimate round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2022-23 – that begins on Monday – promises more excitement with the two best sides locking horns in Karachi.
The iconic National Bank Cricket Arena in Karachi will host the fixture between top-ranked Northern and second-placed Sindh. The two sides have dominated the points table for majority of the season and seem on course to secure berths in the final.
While Northern are 13 points clear of Sindh with 122 points, Sindh will remain wary of third-placed Central Punjab who are only seven points behind them.
Northern enter this competition after securing a draw against star-studded Central Punjab at the LCCA Ground in Lahore thanks to a heroic fourth innings half-century from 20-year-old all-rounder Mubasir Khan.
The youngster was the player of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2021-22 and has proved to be a vital cog, providing the right balance with his crucial performances with the bat and ball this season.
Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bagged five points each in the last round as their match at the Pindi Cricket Stadium was abandoned. But, Sindh have been on a high. In the seventh round, they recorded their third win by beating Southern Punjab by 202 runs.
Northern and Sindh are the only sides with three wins this season. When they met earlier in the season, the match ended in a draw.
Central Punjab stay at the LCCA Ground where they play fourth-ranked Balochistan, who are the only other team in this edition to win a match (they have won two). Central Punjab are the only side to play all draws, but wins in the last two rounds can propel them to another Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final.
When Central Punjab and Balochistan faced off earlier in the season that contest ended in a draw.
The third match of the round will be played between Southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium. The two sides faced off in the second round at the same venue with their match also ending in a draw.
The two teams are placed at the bottom of the points table – Southern Punjab fifth, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sixth.
Southern Punjab played out a draw against Balochistan at the same venue in the last round as the match was affected by rain.
Abdullah Shafique, Usman Salahuddin and Tayyab Tahir scored centuries in the previous round. While Abdullah further strengthened his position as the leading run-scorer, Usman and Tayyab secured the second and third spots in the list.
Abdullah has 797 runs at 63.20 with three centuries and as many half-centuries. Usman, 733 runs at 61.08, is the only other player with more than 700 runs and an equal number of centuries and half-centuries as Abdullah.
Abdullah’s teammate Tayyab has the most centuries in the season and an impressive conversion rate. He has four centuries and one half-century and has accumulated 671 runs at 67.10.
There are not many changes in the top three wicket-takers since the last round. Despite Sindh not playing the last round, Abrar Ahmed stays at the top with 40 wickets at 17.25. Central Punjab’s Mohammad Ali is second with 24 scalps at 25.54 and Abrar’s teammate Muhammad Umar is third on the list with 23 scalps. Northern’s Mubasir Khan joins him on the third spot with the same amount of wickets at 31.26 after the eighth round.
Cricket Associations Championship 2022-23
Central Punjab thrashed Northern by an innings in the previous round as their domination in the non first-class tournament continued. They have six wins from eight matches – the most for any side – and lead the points table. Southern Punjab are second, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa third, Sindh fourth, Balochistan fifth and Northern sixth.
Central Punjab play Balochistan at the KCCA Stadium, Karachi in the ninth round which begins on Monday. Southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa face off at the NBP Sports Complex. Sindh and Northern play at the UBL Sports Complex.