Southern Punjab bank on blend of youth and experience

Shan Masood-led unit will be a strong contender for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy title

Southern Punjab bank on blend of youth and experience PHOTO: AFP

Southern Punjab will be a strong contender for the Quaid-e-Azam (QeA) Trophy title. Their tournament begins with the much-anticipated Punjab Derby at the Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Saturday.

The team has some seasoned campaigners and some exciting talent in their ranks and are led by Pakistan Test opener Shan Masood. In 112 first-class appearances, Shan has tallied 6221 runs at 33.99 with the help of 10 centuries and 32 half-centuries.

The 29-year-old is set to partner with Lahore’s Sami Aslam at the top of the innings. Sami, also a left-handed opening-batsman, has appeared in 13 Tests for Pakistan. He has so far collected 63 first-class caps, scoring 3589 runs at 34.50 with the help of 10 centuries and 15 half-centuries.

Southern Punjab also have a strong middle-order with the veteran former Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez providing stability. Complimenting his 362 international appearances is his rich experience of domestic cricket having featured for Faisalabad, Lahore, Sargodha and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines in a career spanning more than two decades.

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Southern Punjab also have the services of big-hitting Sohaib Maqsood in their ranks while talented youngster Saif Badar lends more talent and skill to the batting department.

Shan will have a top-class pace attack at his disposal with Test fast-bowlers Mohammad Abbas and  Mohammad Irfan Senior spearheading the attack.

Test fast-bowler Bilawal Bhatti and all-rounder Amir Yamin are capable performers in both red and white ball cricket. Umaid Asif, who has been a regular for Peshawar Zalmi in the HBL Pakistan Super League, is another experienced pacer with 55 first-class appearances, in which he has taken 179 wickets at 25.21.

Spinners Mohammad Irfan (Left-arm slow), Zahid Mehmood (Leg-spinner) are expected to provide adequate support to the pacers.

The wicketkeeping duties will be executed by wicketkeeper-batsman Adnan Akmal. Umar Siddique, the talented left-handed top-order batsman, will be a back-up option for Shan. Umar featured for Multan Sultan in the HBL PSL 2019 as a wicketkeeper-batsman, often opening the innings for the franchise.

Masood believes that the fast-bowling unit is Southern Punjab’s strongest link.

“All six squads in the tournament are well-balanced which makes this tournament exciting,” said Masood. “If we discuss our strength, I feel it is bowling. We have Pakistan’s fast bowling cream at our disposal with Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali, Amir Yamin, Umaid Asif, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Abbas, who is Pakistan’s leading Test bowler, in the ranks.”

“We can rotate these bowlers as and when needed and rest them to ensure they aren’t under a heavy workload. We have wicket-takers bowlers who can also contain and create pressure in our armoury,” he added.

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“Besides the pacers, we have two very capable spinners in leg-spinner Zahid Mehmood and left-arm spinner Mohammad Irfan, who is on the fringes of Pakistan selection,” said the left-hander while talking about his team’s spin bowling department.

The opener also spoke about the team’s batting credentials and the presence of experienced campaigners.  

“In our batting department, we have a lot of talented youngsters like Umar Siddiq, Imran Rafiq, Zain Abbas, Saif Badar and Sami Aslam, who can also be considered a youngster,” he said. “Mohammad Hafeez will help us with his vast experience while Sohaib Maqsood and I would need to take extra responsibility as senior batsmen in the team.”

Shan Masood-led Southern Punjab, a blend of youth and experience

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Southern Punjab Second XI

The Southern Punjab Second XI that will compete in the three-day non-first-class tournament is led by Naved Yasin. Lahore batsman Salman Ali Agha will be his deputy.

The squad is mentored by Pakistan Test player Zulfiqar Babar, who represented the country in 15 Tests. The left-arm orthodox picked 54 wickets at 39.42 at the highest level of the game with the help of two five-wicket hauls.

The 40-year-old has taken 507 wickets in 107 first-class matches and is one of a handful of bowlers to have taken all 10 wickets in a first-class innings.

The Southern Punjab Second XI squad also includes Pakistan T20I opener Mukhtar Ahmed, who has to date played six T20I matches. The fast bowling unit is spearheaded by left-armer Zia-ul-Haq, who has remained on the fringes of Pakistan selection in recent years. The 24-year-old has taken 196 wickets in 59 first-class matches.

Zia is likely to share the new ball with the right-arm fast bowler Mohammad Irfan Junior who has taken 75 wickets in 21 first-class matches. Irfan has represented Karachi Kings, Multan Sultans and Quetta Gladiators in the HBL Pakistan Super League.

Southern Punjab open their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Second XI campaign with their Punjab derby with Central Punjab at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium from September 14.