LAHORE - Quetta’s Bugti Stadium will return as a first-class venue after 11 years when it was announced as one of the nine centres to host 31 fixtures of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20 between September 14 and December 9.

While scheduling Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20 fixtures, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has taken ground availability and readiness as well as expected weather conditions at the backend of the year into consideration.

Balochistan will feature in all the four matches at Bugti Stadium – second round fixture against Southern Punjab (21-24 September), third round fixture against Central Punjab (28 Sep-1 Oct), fifth round fixture against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (28-31 Oct) and sixth round fixture against Southern Punjab (4-7 Nov).

The picturesque Bugti Stadium staged its only ODI in 1996, while it hosted its 25th and last first-class match in October 2008 when the home side met the then North-West Frontier Province in a 2008-09 Pentangular Cup match.

Director Domestic Cricket Haroon Rashid said: “The resumption of active first-class cricket in Quetta is aligned to the PCB’s strategic objective of reviving and taking cricket to every nook and corner of the country, attracting local players by giving them opportunities to get closer to the established cricketers and generating interest in the region.

“Separately, the PCB is already exploring commercialisation opportunities around the Bugti Stadium,” he said adding, “We are confident that resumption of first-class cricket will play its part in not only activating cricket activities in the region but also expediting the process and attracting more entrepreneurs, which, in turn, will generate employment and revenue opportunities.”

While Bugti Stadium will host four matches, other venues to grace the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches are: Abbottabad Stadium, Abbottabad – 6, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore – 3, Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad – 3, Jinnah Stadium, Sialkot – 1, KRL Stadium, Rawalpindi – 3, National Stadium, Karachi – 5 (including 9-13 Dec final), State Bank Stadium, Karachi – 1, UBL Sports Complex, Karachi – 5.

In the opening round from 14-17 September, Sindh and Balochistan will go head to head at the UBL Sports Complex in Karachi, while Gaddafi Stadium will be the venue of the derby match between Central and Southern Punjab. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will lock horns with Northern at the Abbottabad Stadium.

After the first four rounds, the red ball cricket will come to a halt to make window for T20 cricket. This is being done to provide the selectors with the opportunity to select in-form T20 players ahead of the crucial three-match T20I series against Australia Down Under.

The First and Second XI T20 tournaments, running simultaneously, will also help the HBL Pakistan Super League franchises to spot players ahead of the player draft for the next year’s edition.

To groom further the domestic cricketers for the demanding challenges of Test cricket, for the first time in domestic cricket, the PCB has decided to implement the no-toss rule, which will provide the visiting teams will an option of bowling first. This will act as a deterrent for the home sides from doctoring the pitches in their favour and compel them to prepare pitches that provide the right balance between bat and ball for four days.

Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Second XI tournament: The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Second XI tournament will run simultaneously with the First XI tournament. The 30 group matches will be of three-day durations, while the final will be four-day fixture that will be played at Karachi’s State Bank Stadium from 26 to 29 November.

The city of Mirpur in Azad and Jammu Kashmir will host four Second XI matches, starting from the second round contest between Northern and Central Punjab. The decision to broaden the venues for top-quality perfectly aligns with the PCB’s vision of the promotion of the game as it will attract more and more people towards the game, with the country’s leading cricketers playing in front of them, and help in the development of the game in what previously has been a neglected region.

Haroon Rashid added: “The purpose of organising domestic cricket is to prepare domestic players for international cricket and attract youngsters and fans towards the game. We hope to deliver on both fronts with this Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

“The upcoming season will groom our domestic cricketers to deliver in different situations. They will travel across the country and the challenge of playing at away venues is bound to help players get stronger mentally and be ready for the uphill tasks that they are going to be exposed to at the international level.”