LAHORE - One of Pakistan’s most decorated captains, Misbah-ul-Haq, will be one of the main attractions of the three-day Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade-II, which will commence from Friday.

The 44-year-old veteran of 276 international matches and a scorer of 11,132 international runs will represent Faisalabad Region, which will be one of the 10 sides that will go head-to-head in the tournament, which carries total prize money of Rs 950,000. Apart from Faisalabad, other regional sides taking part in the tournament include Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Bahawalpur, Dera Murad Jamali, Hyderabad, Larkana, Abbottabad, Sialkot, Quetta and Karachi Blues.

The teams have been divided into two groups, with Group A comprising Bahawalpur, Sialkot, Faisalabad, AJK and Hyderabad. Their matches will be played at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad and Mirpur Stadium, Azad Jammu Kashmir. Teams in Group B are Abbottabad, Quetta, Larkana, Karachi Blues and DM Jamali, and their matches will be played in Karachi at the National Bank of Pakistan Ground, State Bank of Pakistan Ground and United Bank Limited Sports Complex.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played simultaneously from 1 to 3 February at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad, and Mirpur Stadium, AJK, respectively. The final of the tournament will be played at Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad, from February 6 to 9. As per the existing domestic cricket rules, relegation and promotion will apply; the tournament winner will seal a berth in the next edition of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade-I tournament.

Faisalabad region have a real star power in their ranks with Test icon Misbah-ul-Haq leading their campaign. He will be supported by opener Ahmad Shahzad also is also making a return to competitive cricket. Misbah said he was keen to help Faisalabad move into the Grade-I competition. “The biggest motivation for me is to help Faisalabad regain their Grade-I spot. We were relegated last season and our aim is to qualify for first-class cricket again; this is what we can strive to do for our region.”

Misbah is also keen on transferring his experience to the upcoming players in the arena. He is also hopeful that competitive cricket in this event will help him in HBL PSL 2019 in which he will represent Peshawar Zalmi. “Such events also provide an opportunity to work with younger players, to spend time with them to work on their game and transfer experience. On a personal note the tournament should help me prepare for the HBL PSL,” he admitted.

Misbah said he was glad to have Ahmad Shahzad in his side and felt this tournament was a good platform for the opener to regain his lost touch. “I feel that the tournament will help Ahmad Shahzad get back into form, regain his confidence and prepare for the HBL PSL 2019. The three-day tournaments provide a great opportunity of spending a long time at the crease and improving one’s game.”

Meanwhile, Ahmad Shahzad himself was raring to return to the cricket field and was hopeful of making a big impact ahead of an action-packed cricketing year. “The last few months were very tough for me; I badly missed playing cricket especially since the sport is a childhood passion of mine and an integral part of my life. I am more focused than ever and have worked hard on improving my mindset and other aspects of the game.

“I am really looking forward to representing Faisalabad. Grade II is a platform from where a lot of players have emerged and I am eager to deliver to the best of my ability for my team.” The winners will receive Rs 500,000 and the runners-up Rs 250,000 while player of the final, best batsman, best bowler and best wicketkeeper will earn Rs 50,000 each.