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Peshawar fly the regional banner as pitches under scrutiny again

Mohammad Hafeez doesn't hide his disappointment after being dismissed Getty Images

Plucky Peshawar make it two in two

Despite the tired, yet inescapable narrative of departments reigning supreme against regions in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, Peshawar continue to defy the odds in the second round. Fresh from an upset victory in the first round against KRL, they put in another commanding performance as they took down another departmental powerhouse. This time it was HBL who fell victim to Peshawar, who cruised to a six-wicket victory.

Peshawar's start is all the more remarkable for a side completely devoid of big-name talent; the starting eleven does not have a single Test cap. Indeed, there's only one international cap amongst the eleven, awarded to Sahibzada Farhan, who played a solitary T20I earlier this year. He played a crucial role in the fourth innings, scoring 46 as he put on a century partnership with Ashfaq Ahmed, who was unbeaten on 68, as they chased down what could have been a tricky target of 159.

Pitch standards under scrutiny again

Last season's Quaid-e-Azam trophy was replete with complaints of pitches that were not ready for first-class cricket, and it didn't take too long to have the first two-day finish in the 2018 season. It came at the embattled Diamond Club Ground in Islamabad, the same venue that earned Imran Farhat's ire and an accusation that a bug infestation there had sent more than half his team to the hospital.

It was on the pitch, however, that batsmen struggled to stop the bleeding as wicket after wicket fell on the first day, and well before the second session was up, the home side had been skittled out for 88. In the circumstances, KRL put on a nearly impregnable 176 thanks to a half century by Usman Arshad, doubling the first innings score. Rawalpindi didn't fare much better the second time around, and as their innings wrapped up for a sorry 118, KRL had only 31 runs to chase down to register their first points on the board. They did so without the loss of a wicket, and before half-time had been reached in this four-day game, it was time to go home.

A giant awakes from its slumber

Traditional giants SNGCP will have been disappointed with only a draw in the opening round, which saw them fail to get off the mark in terms of points. Wounded into action, they put on a fearsome display in this round, routing FATA by an innings and 52 runs. All the damage was done in the first innings, as Imran Butt and Iftikhar Ahmed scored 111 and 145 respectively to help their side amass 461. And while FATA were spirited in their response, Samiullah scoring a hundred of his own, it wasn't enough to prevent his side conceding a 195-run lead to Mohammad Hafeez's men.

Hafeez, who was recently omitted from the squad for the Asia Cup that begins on Sunday, had promised he would not retire, and instead earn his place in the national side back through performances on the domestic circuit. He couldn't have wished for a better start, as in the second innings he took six wickets for 62, helping bowl FATA out for 143 and earning his side an innings win.

Butt stars in WAPDA win

There was a time 18 months ago when Salman Butt was on the verge of making a spectacular return to the international side. When the QeA began last year, it was still conceivable he could be called up, depending on how he performed. As it turned out, he had an underwhelming year, Imam-ul-Haq burst onto the scene, and Butt's moment passed.

While the chances of an international call-up look extremely bleak anytime soon, Butt has, to his credit, kept plugging away on the domestic circuit. As captain of WAPDA, he led from the front to help them bounce back from a first round loss against Karachi Whites, scoring 68 and 49 as they beat Multan by 7 wickets. He didn't top-score in either innings though. Adnan Raees led the charge in the first innings with 91, while wicketkeeper-batsman Ali Shan played arguably the most important knock of the game in the fourth innings, his unbeaten 96 seeing WAPDA comfortably chase down a not inconsiderable target of 175.