Asif returns to first-class cricket
Mohammad Asif became the last of the three Pakistan cricketers who were jailed for spot-fixing after the 2010 Lord's Test to return to first-class cricket and that, too, in a match captained by Salman Butt who was in charge of Pakistan on that day. After missing the first two games of Water and Power Development Authority's season with a hamstring strain, he impressed across the two innings with figures if 16-5-51-2 and 13-6-19-2. It was his first appearance in Pakistan domestic cricket since November 2009. As with Butt and Mohammad Amir, Asif returned to playing when his ban elapsed but was held back from first-class action with the PCB wanting to regulate his comeback carefully. Asif's four wickets helped his side to victory by an innings and 100 runs against Islamabad. WAPDA presently lead the table being unbeaten so far with three straight wins.
FATA takes a flight with first victory
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a side only inducted into the first-class circuit last year, won their first match of the season by thumping Pakistan International Airlines by 157 runs in Sialkot. In 2013, the PCB under Zaka Ashraf's chairmanship recognised FATA as a Full Member of the domestic circuit and allowed them to try and qualify for first-class cricket. They eventually made it to the main round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy last year but finished bottom of Pool B.
Irfanullah Shah, a 21-year-old pace bowler from Banu, a town bordering with North Waziristan, was the star as he claimed eight wickets in the match. FATA consolidated in their second innings after edging a two-run lead in the first innings, and set PIA a target of 345. Former Test batsman Faisal Iqbal (74) and Shahid Ilyas (51) were the only batsmen to offer some resilience before the side fell for 187.
Umar Akmal in a contract mix
Umar Akmal missed the game against his former departmental and employer Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited at the Gaddafi Stadium. The reason offered was a minor injury but reports suggested Umar did not want to end his chances of returning to his previous team who have kept his contract open to allow such a move. There is no set rule or policy, but an understanding allows Umar to decide if he wants to plot a return. But had he played against them, the department could have shut the door on any comeback. Lahore Whites were captained by Asif Raza instead and SNGPL, despite having a decent lead of 178, ended up drawing the game.
Another Akmal stepping up
After suffering a finger injury against Sri Lanka in 2014, Adnan Akmal was replaced by Sarfraz Ahmed and has not returned to the national side with Sarfraz having cemented his position in all formats. Adnan has had a quiet two years since losing his place, but recently struck form with 107 for SNPGL against Lahore Whites following scores of 69, 114 not out and 60 not out.
Islamabad hold on in thriller
There was a gripping finish at the Diamond Cricket Ground in Islamabad - a venue known to be tough for batsmen - where National Bank of Pakistan finished nine wickets down and 13 runs short of their target. Requiring 228 in 70 overs, NBP never looked in control as they fell to 92 for 6 but a 70-run stand for the seventh wicket between Qaisar Abbas (50) and Faizan Khan (26*) brought about the tense conclusion. Rawalpindi pushed hard for the final wicket but Faizan and No. 11 Atif Jabbar - who had come together with 36 needed - held out.