As a youngster, Zia got introduced to the game playing street cricket in his village of Bhaun, before playing club cricket in Chakwal. Zia was encouraged to attend local trials, where he came to the attention of Jhelum coaches, who offered him a place in the Jhelum team. He accepted their offer and started playing for Jhelum district and then Grade 2 cricket, before finally getting his chance in first class cricket for the Rawalpindi cricket team in 2007.
He has played 35 first-class and 19 list-A matches. He has also played 22 Twenty20 matches representing the Rawalpindi Rams, who made it to the final of the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup in 2011 where Awais delivered a fitting start to their chase of 181 - it ended in a 10-run defeat, but Awais smashed 32 in just 13 balls while opening the batting. That potential to make an impact at the top of the order won him his first international stint.