Honours ended just about even on a fluctuating first day of the 49th Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League final between Karachi Urban and Sialkot at the Multan Cricket Stadium.
Ijaz Ahmed, the former Pakistan batsman back in first-class cricket after six years, won the toss as captain of Sialkot, and chose to field. As Asif Zakir, Karachi's leading scorer this season, went for a fourth-ball duck, it was proving a wise choice but Agha Sabir and Mohtashim Ali then stabilised the situation with a 127-run stand for the second wicket.
One wicket then brought two, as the fall of Ali was followed soon after by Faisal Iqbal also going for a duck. Sarfraz Ahmed, Sialkot's left-arm fast-medium bowler, was on fire then, his side on top.
It took all of Hasan Raza's experience to restore the situation to some parity thereafter, with a painstaking third fifty of the season, in a little over three hours with nine fours. In partnership with Saeed bin Nasir, another Karachi success story this season, he added 74 runs, before a further two wickets fell to put the match back on an even keel again, with Karachi on 249 for six at the end of the day. Their hopes will rest on Raza, unbeaten on 56.
Ahmed ended with four wickets and Sabir made up for a middling season so far by topscoring with 70.
What will be disappointing for almost everyone concerned is that only Iqbal from the national team was playing, for either side. All of Sialkot's Pakistan stars - Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Shoaib Malik, Abdur Rehman, captain Imran Nazir and Mohammad Asif - were absent while Asim Kamal wasn't playing for Karachi either. Some of them could at least cite the World Cup and a fear of injury as a factor.
Sialkot won their first Quaid title last season, while Karachi's Urban's appearance in the final, the first by a Karachi side for five years, means that there remains a chance for the city to add to its record 17 wins.