KARACHI: Sindh and Northern will lock horns for their maiden Quaid-i-Azam Trophy title in the five-day finale of Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore on Saturday.

While Sindh have made it to the final for the first time since the revamp of the domestic cricket system in 2019, it will be a third for Northern, who missed out on the Trophy honours in the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons.

Both sides have been exceptional this season with three wins each. Both could have stayed unbeaten throughout the 10-round league stage too, had it not been for Northern’s loss to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the final fixture.

Northern and Sindh, however, will miss some of their key players due to them being called up for national duty for Pakistan’s upcoming three-match Test series against England.

Sindh will be without their captain Saud Shakil, wicket-keeper batter Sarfraz Ahmed and spinners Abrar Ahmed and Zahid Mahmood. Set to be lead by veteran opener Khurram Manzoor in the final, Sindh will miss Abrar the most.

With his mystery leg-spin, the 24-year-old has snapped up 43 wickets in just 12 innings — which ensured his selection for the England series.

“It is a great honour for us that four players of our team are currently on national assignment,” said Khurram. “It is an opportunity for other players to step up and grab the opportunities on offer with both hands.”

Northern, on the other hand, will have to do without the presence of their captain and left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, with experienced batter Umar Amin to take charge in the final.

Apart from Nauman, Northern will have a full-strength side to have a go at the title. They will look up to the likes of opener Mohammad Huraira and all-rounder Mubasir Khan — both fairly consistent with their roles this season.

“Our team have completely dominated the tournament from the start and we are looking to repeat the same performance to lift the trophy,” said Northern skipper Umar.

“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.”

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022

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