DateLine: 20th December 2005
Born in Rawalpindi, but raised in Nottinghamshire, Usman Afzaal became one of the first British-Pakistaniís to play for England when he made his Test Debut in the First Ashes Test of 2001. Facing the Australians was always going to be a struggle, and after making 2 and 4 he was dropped. He had batted at 7 as England had embarked on a defensive campaign, with Alec Stewart and Mark Butcher being the de facto all-rounders. He returned for the Fourth Test, and he was at the crease when England (or rather Mark Butcher) won the match. In the Fifth Test came greater personal success, as he picked up the wicket of Adam Gilchrist (although that had merely reduced Australia to 534-4), and then made a defiantly quick-fire 54. However, his wild celebrations on reaching his half century puzzled the Australians, who felt that many more runs would be needed from him if England were to do anything other than lose after their own first innings declaration on 641-4. Afzaal failed in the second innings and England slumped to an innings defeat, although his services were retained for the winter tours. However when he arrived for the second leg of the winter tour in New Zealand, his (lack of) fitness and (too much) weight greatly displeased Duncan Fletcher, and Afzaal has not been seen on anything but county duty since. Despite being a very confident and assertive character, Afzaal was dropped from the Nottinghamshire Championship team in June 2003. He was released from Trent Bridge at the end of the season, despite having a year left on his contract and despite Kevin Pietersen also departing. However, a move to Northamptonshire (for whom he averages over 50 in First-class cricket) was very beneficial, although their spin twins of Monty Panesar and Jason Brown means his bowling is seen less than previously. Afzaal does have both the batting talent and temperamental steel to make it at the highest level, although at the moment Ed Joyce, Alastair Cook, Rob Key and Owais Shah are likely to be ahead of him on Englandís to call list.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)