It was under the guidance of Clinton Mike – father of the Nottinghamshire cricketer, Greg Mike - that Usman Afzaal played his early cricket.
He was a slow left arm bowler of modest ability as a teenager; in 1991 he gained some marginal recognition by achieving a place on the fringe of the Notts Under-14s squad. The following summer, perhaps due to a little advice from Andy Afford, he forced his way into the Notts Schools’ Under-15s side, and then into the ESCA (English Schools Crciket Association) Midlands squad. From there he went on to England Under-15s and the Eleven that opposed the South African Under-15s touring squad in a series of Tests and One Day Internationals.
Now an automatic choice for Notts Under-16s in the Texaco Competition, he travelled to Uppingham for the Finals and in the three Notts games returned outstanding figures of 7-65, 5-39 and 6-41. Notts finished as runners-up and in all games Afzaal took 46 wickets at 10.19 a piece. He also single-handedly won the Under-19s Wilf Barlow Trophy, taking 14 for 93 in 54 overs.
Immediately on leaving Manvers Pierrepont Comprehensive, Afzaal joined the Trent Bridge Cricket Office on a YTS Scheme and during the three summers of 1993, 1994 and 1995 was regular member of the Notts Colts side competing in the Bassetlaw League. He took a total of 98 wickets at 16.82 for the Colts. His debut for Notts Second Eleven was against Gloucester at Bristol in 1993 and in the second innings he returned figures of four for 97. 1994 and 1995 saw him as a permanent member of the Seconds.
In the Winter of 1994/95 he toured West Indies with England Under-19s and upon returning home accepted a place on the Notts Playing Staff. His First-Class debut came against Kent at Trent Bridge in 1994 – by some odd quirk he was dismissed in the first innings by an up and coming young bowler, Mark Ealham.
Following occasional First Team appearances in 1995 and 1996, Afzaal won a regular place in the Notts side in 1997, not by his bowling, but by some very determined batting. In his initial appearance of 1997 he hit 70 and 77, both not out against Lancashire at Old Trafford, occupying the crease for over eight hours.
As his batting ability grew, his bowling seems to have fallen by the wayside. In 2000 he topped the Notts batting averages for the first time and completed 1,000 first-class runs for the summer.
This success was noted by the England selectors and he formed part of the England ’A’ squad that toured West Indies in the winter of 2000/01 . He generally batted at four during the tour, as well as bowling in most matches, but his overall statistics were a little disappointing
Nevertheless the selectors were clearly impressed by his ability and in the summer of 2001 he made his Test debut in the first match against Australia at Edgbaston. He was not seen in the following tests, but returned for the fourth Test at The Oval, where he scored 54.
Ignored by England in 2002, he was still Notts’ leading runscorer, but left the following year, since when he moved counties a number of times before retiring in 2010.
Usman Afzaal is still active in cricket locally, coaching near neighbours Grantham CC, and a regular attendee at Notts former players days.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 532