LAHORE   -   Cricketing action will continue in Quetta as Balochistan host Central Punjab at the picturesque Bugti Stadium in the third round of the four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, which commences on Saturday.

Bolstered by their win against Northern at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium in the second round, the Azhar Ali-led side is perched at the top of the points table. They will be faced by an in-form bowling attack – spearheaded by Yasir Shah, the leading wicket-taker after the first two rounds with 10 scalps – that skittled out Southern Punjab twice at the same venue in the last round.

It will, however, take some effort to put the shackles on Kamran Akmal, whose 170-ball 157 helped Central Punjab put a daunting 433 all-out in the first innings, which eventually anchored the victory. Rawalpindi will host its first four-day Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match of the season when Northern, placed bottom on the points table, hosts Sindh at the KRL Stadium.

After a mammoth defeat by an innings and 100 runs margin against Central Punjab at Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium in the second round – this being the only first-class match of the season to date to give a result – the Umar Amin-led side will hope to exploit the home advantage and make notable gains in the points table.

After a brilliant 174, Asad Shafiq-led Sindh will look towards opener Omair Bin Yousuf to lay another solid foundation in what will be their first away match of the season. Coming into the match, Northern will also be wary of Fawad Alam after his unbeaten 138-ball 100 in the lower-order put Sindh in a commanding position in their last round contest against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa returns to Abbottabad, but this time as an away team, to play Southern Punjab. This match will be live-streamed on the PCB YouTube channel. Their captain Sahibzada Farhan will hope Ashfaq Ahmed, who has scored two centuries in as many games so far, Adil Amin, who starred against Sindh with a score of 70 and a five for 81 with the ball, and centurion of the previous match Zohaib Khan will emulate their performances at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium.

After Sami Aslam’s magnificent double-century in the first round and notable performances from Imran Rafiq, Aamir Yamin, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Irfan (slow left-arm) in the second round, Southern Punjab will be hoping to turn individual performances into a collective team effort.

The Shan Masood-led team has been the only touring team to have contested the toss – in the first round match against Central Punjab at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. They, however, will hope Khyber Pakhtunkhwa follow their suit so they have a shot at deciding how to commence the game.