LAHORE     -      Twenty-nine centuries, three double-centuries and four five-wicket hauls embellished the first phase of the four-day first-class

Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament.

After 12 matches across four rounds, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Ashfaq Ahmed is perched at the top of the list for highest run-getters in the tournament with 473 runs in five innings, said the information made available here on Wednesday by the Pakistan Cricket.

The 32-year-old one-drop batsman has scored the most number of centuries (3) in country’s premier tournament and boasts a staggering average of over 157. “It is a great feeling to be the top scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy,” Ashfaq said adding “Scoring runs is never easy in first-class cricket as it tests your skill and patience. I have been trying to play according to my strengths and so far it is getting me the results.

“Our senior players had left for the national duty which put the responsibility on my shoulders to carry the team’s batting forward. It helped me to play and perform under-pressure and it has given me a lot of confidence,” he added.

With the introduction of the Kookaburra balls in the new domestic structure, the contest between bat and ball has become more balanced. This was evident from the very first round when Sami Aslam and Abid Ali struck double-centuries.

Southern Punjab’s opener Sami scored 243 not out against Central Punjab at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, while Sindh’s opener Abid hit an unbeaten 249 – which remains the highest score of the tournament – at the UBL Sports Complex against Balochistan. Central Punjab’s Salman Butt joined the double-century club at Quetta’s Bugti Stadium in his side’s third round fixture against Balochistan. The 35-year-old’s 237 helped Central Punjab to their second consecutive win by an innings’ margin. The bowlers, especially the spinners, have also benefitted from the conditions.

Fast-bowlers have done the job with the new ball and spinners have exploited the conditions to the fullest when it has gotten old. Four five-wicket hauls have been recorded in the four-day tournament so far and all of them have been taken by the spinners.

Balochistan’s Yasir Shah leads the charts for the most wicket-takers with 15 scalps at an average of 43.80. The other bowlers to have picked five wickets in an innings are Northern’s Nauman Ali, Southern Punjab’s Mohammad Irfan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Adil Amin.

After two wins – both by an innings’ margin – Azhar Ali-led Central Punjab sit at the top of the points table with 67 points. Southern Punjab, led by Shan Masood, are positioned second, after their win against their win against Sindh at the UBL Sports Complex by a massive margin of an innings and 129 runs. Mohammad Rizwan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is third at the points table with 42 points and is the only side to have drawn all four matches.

Sindh, Balochistan and Northern are placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, and have a lost a match each. The four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy takes a 20-day break as the National T20 Cup gets underway in Faisalabad. The tournament will resume from 28 October when the fifth round commences.