Salman Butt scored a hundred and Mohammad Asif picked up two wickets in six overs on their return to competitive cricket after over five years. Butt and Asif, whose spot-fixing ban were lifted last September, were representing Water and Power Development Authority against Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the ongoing 16-team National One Day Cup in Pakistan.

Butt and Asif were allowed to play again by the PCB since they are only a month away from completing their rehabilitation. They were actually eligible to play all forms of cricket from September, and were signed as non-executive 17th grade employees by WAPDA. Both of them have been travelling with the team but were not allowed to play first-class cricket earlier as the PCB wanted them to complete their rehabilitation programme before making a comeback.

Butt, 31, opened and scored 135 from 143 balls with the help of 14 fours to power WAPDA to 277 for 7 in 50 overs. Asif, 33, removed the FATA openers and finished with figures of 6-0-22-2, to spark a collapse as FATA were skittled for 136 and lost by a hefty margin of 141 runs.

“This is the start and I hope that this is the new beginning,” Butt said after the match. “I will try to maintain this performance. As long as I will get more matches I will improve and rhythm will be better. I thank my family, friends, coaches, my WAPDA team and all those well-wishers who supported me. Without their contribution it would not have happened.

“I was focused all through these years. I did a lot of work to keep myself in best shape. Since I wasn’t allowed to play cricket for registered clubs, I had been training at unregistered facilities and the result is there. I thank Waqar [Younis] and other seniors, they have positive thoughts in their talk and this gives me more encouragement.”

Recently, Pakistan selected Mohammad Amir for the New Zealand tour, which became a subject of heated debate even within the Pakistan squad. Butt and Asif are also looking ahead to their reintegration in the system, backed by some solid performances.

“I don’t want to see who is opposing me and what he is saying,” Butt said. “There will be negative opinions as well and with respect to them I will not reply to them. My target is to work hard. I hope things will get better, no complaints and I will look towards allah and things will fall into place finally.

“Amir’s return, without doubt will strengthen Pakistan’s bowling and competition will grow in the bowling contingent and others’ performances will also get better, so I wish him the best.”

Asif had also been seen training in Lahore and believed he was ready to prove himself. “I am very relaxed, the toughest phase of my life is over,” he said. “Throughout the five-year span I remained focused about cricket and that’s why I am not finding any difficulty in bowling.

“We were in the team for Quaid-e-Azam Trophy as well but unfortunately we were not allowed to play. But now is the chance to prove myself and I am ready for that. This one-day tournament will help me gauge where I stand as far as bowling is concerned. I am a swing bowler so I will not find any difficulty. International cricket is my target but I have to do well in the domestic matches before I can hope of international cricket.”

[Source:- ESPN]


By Adam