Ashraf Ali Siddiqui describes an scintillating victory
The Northern Cricket Team Wins Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is a domestic first-class cricket competition in Pakistan. With few exceptions, it has been staged annually since it was first played during the 1953-54 season. Domestic cricket, spearheaded by competitions such as Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in Pakistan is an evolving phenomenon and has played a prominent role in consistently producing new cricketing talent for the country. Since the 2019-20 season Quaid-e-Azam Trophy it has been contested by six regional teams, having previously been variously contested by associations or departments or a combination of the two.
As of 2019, domestic cricket in Pakistan was reorganised into six regional teams on provincial lines. A three tier bottom-up system is in operation with the Tier 1 teams participating in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (First Class), Pakistan Cup (List A) and National T20 Cup (Regional T20). The Tier 2 teams participate in the City Cricket Association Tournament whilst the Tier 3 teams participate in various local tournaments as both tiers feed players to the Tier 1 team.
This year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final was won by the Northern Cricket Team that is patronized by Saleem Asghar Mian and has created a niche for itself in the domestic cricketing world. Saleem Asghar Mian is a former first-class cricketer. His 20-year career ran from 1961-81, following which he had several assignments as men’s national cricket team’s manager. As a civil service officer, Saleem worked as a Member FBR, Regional Commissioner Income Tax and Chairman of Monopoly Control Authority.
The Northern Cricket team was introduced as a part of the new domestic structure announced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in August 2019 and PCB confirmed its first squad in September 2019. Northern cricket team is a domestic cricket team in Pakistan representing Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir. It competes in domestic first-class, List A and T20 cricket competitions, namely the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan Cup and National T20 Cup. Northern were runners-up in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and won the National T20 Cup defeating Balochistan. In 2020-21 season Northern finished in fifth place in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and were losing semi finalists in both the Pakistan Cup and National T20 Cup.
In this year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final Khyber Pakhtunkhwa team was defending champion but failed to qualify for the final. The final of the tournament was played from 26 to 30 November and Northern won their first title. In the process the Northern team demolished Sindh to win the coveted title with Hurraira, the top run-getter for the second season in a row, was declared the Player of the Match for him scoring 221 runs. Northern fast bowlers Aamer Jamal and Musa shared six wickets between them to wipe out the second Sindh innings inside two sessions on the fourth day of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final to lift the trophy.
They were the favourites to win after ending their first innings on the third evening with a 309-run lead and when Musa, Jamal and Kashif Ali combined to reduce Sindh to 59 for 6 inside 18 overs on Tuesday, it seemed like the match would not go past lunch. It did, courtesy a century from Fawad Alam and some lower-order hitting from Mohammad Umar and Aakiyan Mehmood but not for long. Northern wrapped up the game by an innings and 55 runs after that big first-innings effort, courtesy Muhammad Hurraira’s 221, centuries from Umair Amin and Umar Waheed along with Rohail Nazir’s knock of 94.
It was a stellar season for Northern, where they did lose one game – Sindh and Central Punjab did not lose even one – but topped the table with 135 points after three wins and six draws. There were three 600-plus innings totals of all tournament and two of them came from Northern. Hurraira topped the scorers’ chart with 1024 runs at an average of 73.14. Among the bowlers, while Sindh’s Abrar Ahmed was the most successful this season with 43 wickets, Jamal and Mubasir Khan, the Northern bowlers, came in at No. 2 and No. 3 with 31 wickets apiece. TW