'Proud' Iftikhar lauds hardworking KP side after QeA title win; Huraira sets sights on Pakistan cap

Teenager Huraira became the first player to top the run charts in his debut Quaid-e-Azam season

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Mohammad Huraira punches off the back foot  •  Getty Images

Mohammad Huraira punches off the back foot  •  Getty Images

No one would have begrudged 19-year-old Mohammad Huraira finishing the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with the title, and that was precisely what made defeat such a bitter pill to swallow for the teenager.
Over the course of a remarkable three months, the Northern opener became the first player to top the run charts in his debut QeA season, accumulating 986 runs at an average of 58, with three hundreds and five half-centuries - including 51 and 57 in the final against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Instead, it was the well-oiled machine of KP - joint winners of last year's tournament - who came out on top once more as Huraira's Northern fell short by 169 runs.
"Of course, it's personally satisfying to be the top scorer but it would have been much nicer if it was in a winning cause," Huraira said after the game. "But hats off to KP; they outplayed us in all three departments. I didn't have a huge goal of finishing as the highest scorer, but I had small goals from game to game. Whenever I get a chance I give it my best shot. It came off thankfully. Last year, I didn't get a chance and I was off-colour after the U-19 World Cup. I just worked hard."
In Pakistan, domestic success, particularly for younger players, is seen as something of a stepping stone to international stardom, epitomised by what Hurraira went on to say. "My next target is to represent Pakistan in all three formats, and to give match-winning performances for my country."
With Pakistan struggling for runs at the top of the order of late, their woes exacerbated by the heart condition that Abid Ali is currently ailing from, Huraira has timed his purple patch to perfection.

'The way my form is going, it feels like I'll play for a long time' - Iftikhar

At the other end of the emotions and experience spectrum, KP captain and Player of the Match Iftikhar Ahmed was beaming.
"I'm feeling very proud because where you go and win a trophy, it makes you proud," Iftikhar, 31, said. "Winning five consecutive trophies is a testament to all the hard work of our players. They work hard in the field and give their all, which gives them success."
Iftikhar's form with the bat in this tournament has been pivotal to KP's success whenever he has been available. Despite absences from the competition because of his involvement with the national side, he amassed 461 runs in ten innings at an average of 51.22. Two of his four half-centuries came in the last league game against Central Punjab, but he saved his best for last. In the final, a glorious 102 in the first innings set up a decisive lead for his side, before he chipped in with two top-order wickets in the fourth innings to put KP on course.
"I was thrilled to get a hundred and perform in such a big match," he said. "I was thinking before the final that I'll go out and help my team win. The way my form is going, it feels like I'll play for a long time. Our team has a lot of young players and senior players, and everyone pulls their own weight. Our young players perform really well. The juniors take as much responsibility as the seniors."

Our domestic structure 'incentivises positive cricket' - Amin

His opposite number, Umar Amin, has been in this position before. Two years ago, he was part of a young Northern side that defied the odds and made it all the way to the final against a star-studded Central Punjab side, and found themselves blown away by an innings. In 2021, despite himself being near the top of the run charts - in fourth place with 811 runs at 50.68 - he found his side up against an equally relentless juggernaut.
"Of course, it's disappointing if you don't get over the line after playing two consecutive QeA finals," he said. "When we moved to Karachi, we won four matches on the bounce to qualify for the final. It would have been nice to win to cap our season and the efforts we put in. Unfortunately, we didn't do it this time but if we ever get a chance again, we'll try and get over the line.
"This points system is very exciting; the tournament remains wide open till late in the tournament. Even Sindh, who didn't qualify, only fell short by about two or three points. It's fun till the end and gives all six teams a fair chance. It encourages teams to play aggressive cricket. Overall, this is good for both our domestic and international cricket that we have a system in our domestic structure that incentivises positive cricket."

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000