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Cricketers Abid Ali and Mohammad Rizwan will return to four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy when the fourth round of the country's premier tournament begins on Saturday (today). Both the players took breaks from their respective cricket association sides after they were named in the probables camp for the Sri Lanka series, and subsequently were made part of the ODIs team for the three matches in Karachi.

Sindh will be bolstered by the return of Abid Ali, the right-handed opener, after his blistering 67-ball 74, which earned him the man-of-the-match award, against Sri Lanka on Wednesday. Asad Shafiq, the Sindh captain, however, have some tough calls to take as either of seasoned batsman Khurram Manzoor, who averages 50.75, or 20-year-old Omair Bin Yousuf, who has 244 runs in three innings, would make way if Abid Ali is to be slotted in his favoured opening position.

Sindh travel back to UBL Sports Complex in Karachi to host Southern Punjab. The latter's captain, Shan Masood also finds himself in a predicament as Mohammad Abbas, who has three wickets in two matches in the ongoing tournament, takes a break from domestic cricket to avoid fatigue ahead of Pakistan's tour of Australia. Mohammad Rizwan, who scored a brilliant 176 leading Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in their tournament opener against Northern, will take over the leadership responsibilities from his deputy Sahibzada Farhan in their fixture against Azhar Ali-led Central Punjab. For Central Punjab, the Abbottabad contest will be a chance to further consolidate their combinations.

Azhar Ali said: "Our morale is really high; we have gelled-in very well. KP are formidable opponents and it won't be an easy game for us, we would want to continue our form and play positive cricket. If we continue to play on our strengths, I am hopeful of the team doing well. I am happy with my own form, in any tournament it always helps if you score some runs at the start, there is as such no secret formula to my captaincy. I just aim to play on strengths of my team. We keep our plans in accordance to the new points system, the aim has been to earn maximum points in each game and we have the same plan for this game."

At the KRL Stadium in Rawalpindi, the rain continued to halt action, with the last day of previous fixture getting washed out. Northern, bottom of the points table with only 19 points from three matches, will hope to compound Balochistan's woes after the latter's innings and 12 runs defeat at Bugti Stadium in Quetta in the previous round. There have been bright spots for Northern. The top run-getters for them are Pakistan U19 opener wicketkeeper-batsman Haider Ali and Rohail Nazir - who have 196 and 140 runs at averages of 39.20 and 28.00, in the tournament so far. Despite an innings' defeat against Central Punjab, there was silver lining for Imran Farhat-led Balochistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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