Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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In an apparent bid to encourage more positive cricket during the 2020-21 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the PCB has made changes to the way points are awarded during a game. Unlike the last edition, points will not be awarded to batting sides in the first innings simply by dint of crossing certain thresholds (like 300 runs in an innings) but will be contingent on the rate at which those runs are achieved. At the same time, the bowlers will be incentivised to prioritise wicket-taking strategies by awarding points that are conditional on how many wickets fall during a set number of overs. Both batting and bowling points will only be awarded in the first innings.
A batting side that scores 200 in less than 100 overs will attain one point, rising to two if they surpass 250, three upon crossing 300, four for 350 and the maximum five if they manage 400 inside the 100 overs. For bowlers, meanwhile, points will depend on the number of wickets taken, the time it takes to get them, as well as the economy rate of the bowling side. For instance, bowling sides will pick up one point for three wickets inside 100 overs, rising to three points for eight wickets in that period, and if they bowl a side out for under 200 in less than 100 overs, they will get additional three points. Teams continue to get 16 points for a win and five for draws, as was the case in 2019-20.
Under last season's system, scoring and economy rates did not determine the allocation of points. Batting and bowling sides were awarded points simply for hitting certain milestones, like crossing 200 or taking three wickets in the first innings. The PCB determined that did not necessarily cultivate a culture that actively encouraged engaging, positive cricket, which led to the recent tweaks.
Apart from that, there's virtually no other change in the playing conditions. That is notable in itself, with the tournament continuously affected by radical changes almost every season, from the time of year it's held to the number of participating teams. Despite fierce opposition, the PCB forced through changes last year that got rid of departmental teams in the first-class competition, skimming the number of teams down to six. It will remain that way this year, with just the regions taking part once more.
The first round of games begins on Sunday, with the tournament scheduled to run till the end of December. The final, a five-day affair as opposed to the four days allocated to each group game, will begin on December 26. Central Punjab are the defending champions, having defeated Northern by an innings last season.