Asif on the comeback trail
Playing his second first-class match since being banned for match-fixing, Mohammad Asif took 4 for 33 as Water and Power Development Authority beat Peshawar by six wickets. He dismissed three of the top four batsmen and made sure his team - despite giving up a first-innings lead - came out on top. He seemed to retain the accuracy he was known for and there were those hooping inswingers as well, which dismantled the stumps of Jamaluddin in the first innings and Ashfaq Ahmed in the second.
Peshawar had been put in to bat, and they made 273 before bowling WAPDA out for 180 with the help of left-arm seamer Taj Wali, who had become the first bowler in 20 years to take four wickets in four balls last year, and Sajid Khan, who picked up a five-wicket haul on debut.
But Asif, and left-arm seamer Waqas Maqsood, took eight wickets between them to restrict WAPDA's target to 223 in the final innings. They were 62 for 4 after the third-day's play but lost no wickets on the fourth as a brilliant counterattack from Kamran Akmal at No. 6 - 116 off 163 balls with 14 fours - gave them the game.
There's life in the graveyard
Dennis Lillee, the former Australia fast bowler, had said the Faisalabad pitch was a bowler's graveyard after playing in a match that saw 999 runs being scored for the loss of only 12 wickets. That was in 1980. Things seemed to have changed in 2016 with 18 wickets falling in a single day in the match between Lahore Blues and Habib Bank Limited.
The spree began with Umar Gul taking 5 for 39 and bowling Lahore Blues out for 119 in their first innings and continued with seamer Shahid Nawaz picking up 4 for 30 to limit Habib Bank to 116 in their second innings. That left Lahore Blues with a target of 168 which was achieved with their captain Saad Nasim at the crease on an unbeaten 53 off 37.
A thriller in Karachi
Twenty-one wickets fell on the opening day of the match between Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Karachi Whites, played on another pitch that is traditionally helpful to the batsmen at United Bank Limited Sports Complex.
SNGPL, the defending champions, were put in and bowled out for 128 in 41.5 overs. They still gained a first-innings lead though with seven of the Karachi batsmen falling for single-digits. Opener and captain Shahzaib Hasan top-scored with 61 off 33 balls, with 12 fours and a six. Seamer Azizullah picked up 5 for 42.
For Karachi Whites, seamer Tabish Khan took 5 for 23, and ended up with eight wickets in the match, including Mohammad Hafeez's in both innings.
Hafeez, though, emerged the winning captain with his team-mate Mohammad Rizwan striking 95 off 178 balls in the second innings to lift SNGPL from 42 for 4 to 235. That left Karachi Whites with 246 to chase in six sessions and they seemed to have the game well in hand at 125 for but seamers Asad Ali and Bilawal Bhatti kept fighting.
When the score slipped to 187 for 8 and SNGPL seemed to have regained control. However, Mohammad Hasan and Tabish Khan resisted with a 33-run ninth-wicket partnership and Karachi Whites had dragged themselves to 220 for 8 - a mere 26 runs away from victory. That was when they lost both their remaining wickets and Asad, with 6 for 60 and Bhatti, with 3 for 68, were toasting a hard-earned victory.
Shehzad's mysterious absence
Ahmed Shehzad has not been part of the Pakistan team since the World T20 in February due to disciplinary issues. But with Pakistan looking for Test openers, he was cleared to play for the national side provided he could show good form with the bat. He captained Habib Bank Limited in the third round of the Quaid-e-Azam (QEA) Trophy and scored 54. This was after he was picked in a PCB XI to face the touring West Indians on October 7.
Shehzad, however, did not play this round of the QEA Trophy. It is learnt that the selectors are now considering between Hafeez, Sharjeel Khan and Shan Masood to partner Sami Aslam at the top of the order for the tour of New Zealand. Azhar Ali has been Pakistan's makeshift Test opener since the Oval Test against England in August.