The introduction of no-toss rule and home and away matches provided equal opportunities to all six Cricket Association teams
As expected and anticipated the revamped first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy provided the right balance between bat and ball which led to riveting contests throughout the tournament.
The introduction of no-toss rule and home and away matches provided equal opportunities to all six Cricket Association teams, while the implementation of Kookaburra balls took away the undue advantage that the pace bowlers had enjoyed in the previous seasons.
With matches going the distance, for the first time since 2012-13 season, a spinner, Nauman Ali, finished as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament.
Batsmen got complete value for investing time at the crease, which was evident with a significant jump in the average first innings score to 422 this year from the last edition’s 263.
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Despite a reduction in the number of matches from 69 to 31, the number of centuries and the instances of the batsmen crossing the 200-run mark increased from the last year.
As many as 77 centuries were scored this season – five more than the previous season – with champions Central Punjab leading the tally with 18.
The tally of double-centuries (eight) this season was two times than the last season. Two each were scored by the batsmen from Central Punjab, Northern and Sindh, while the remaining two were divided equally amongst Southern Punjab and Balochistan batsmen.
Four batsmen – Balochistan’s Imran Butt, Southern Punjab’s Sami Aslam, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Ashfaq Ahmed and Sindh’s Fawad Alam – scored four centuries each, the most in the tournament, and the highest individual score of the event was 249 not out, made by Sindh’s Abid Ali.
Central Punjab – who boasted a star-studded batting line-up which included Babar Azam, Azhar Ali, Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad –recorded the highest innings total, a feat which they achieved in the final against Northern with their first innings score of 675 for eight.
They, however, also recorded the lowest innings score – 113 all-out against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the ninth round – during their only defeat of the season.
Imran Butt was the stand out batsman with 934 runs at an average of 62.27 in nine matches. The right-handed 24-year-old batsman scored four centuries, including a double-century, and three half-centuries.
Central Punjab’s Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt were the second and third highest run-getters with 906 and 901 in 11 and 10 matches. Both batsmen registered three centuries and three half-centuries each, with Salman, who scored at an imposing average of 75.08, making a double-century.
Sami Aslam, fourth on the list, had the highest batting average amongst the top run-getters. He made 864 runs at a scintillating average of 78.44 with four centuries, including a double in his team’s tournament opener against Central Punjab at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, and a half-century.
Northern’s Faizan Riaz, promoted to first XI mid-season, made 857 runs at an impressive average of 71.42 in eight matches and was fifth higest run-getter.
Central Punjab were also dominant in the bowling department with seven – the most – of the 26 five-wicket hauls coming from their side as pacer Aizaz Cheema and off-spinner Bilal Asif picked up two five-fers each.
It was Northern captain Nauman Ali, however, who stamped his authority in the bowling department with as many as five-wicket hauls in 10 matches.
The left-arm orthodox was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 54 scalps and had the best bowling figures in an innings in the tournament with eight for 71. The next four, in the list of highest wicket-takers, were also spinners.
Same as the on the list of highest run-getters, the second and third spots were occupied by Central Punjab’s bowlers with spinners Bilal, who took eight for 112 in Northern’s second innings in the final, taking 43 and Zafar Gohar, the player of the tournament, taking 38.
Zafar also made the record for best bowling figures in the match with 11 for 133 against Northern at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium.
Balochistan’s Mohammad Asghar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Sajid Khan were fourth and fifth with 27 and 25.
The champions of the 2019-20 season were at the forefront in wicketkeeping department as well, thanks to Kamran. He accounted for 41 batsmen – 38 catches and three stumpings – in 11 matches.
The next on the list was his younger brother Adnan Akmal, who donning Southern Punjab’s colours, had 33 dismissals to his name.
With 26 dismissals in seven matches, Sindh captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is at number three.
Balochistan’s Imran had the most number of catches for a non-wicketkeeper fielder with 16 grabs in nine matches.