I continue my exploration of the all time XIs theme with a team of players whose names begin with Z. I included Zaheer Abbas in the As, and in keeping with my policy that no one will feature is two XIs in this trip through the alphabet I therefore do not select him today. Other omissions can wait until the Honourable Mentions section.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan). A left handed opening batter with a magnificent ODI record, a respectable test record and a good FC average.
- Ibrahim Zadran (Afghanistan). A right handed opening batter, currently averaging 44 test cricket, and with a good FC record.
- Zubayr Hamza (South Africa). A right handed top order batter who averages 48 in FC cricket, though he has not been successful at test level as yet.
- Najibullah Zadran (Afghanistan). His opportunities at test level have been limited to date, but he has a fine record in limited overs cricket, and I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
- Khaya Zondo (South Africa). Has an excellent FC batting record, though has not yet been given the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level.
- Billy Zulch (South Africa). A right handed batter and occasional right arm medium pacer, he averaged 30 in test cricket when SA were a struggling outfit, had a good FC record.
- +Zulqarnain Haider (Pakistan). An innings of 88 in what proved to be his only test (he fled Pakistan in fear of his own safety) underlined his skill with the bat and he was a fine keeper as well.
- Monde Zondeki (South Africa). A right arm fast bowler who took his test wickets at 25 a piece.
- Zia Ur Rehman (Afghanistan). A left arm orthodox spinner who takes his FC wickets at 19 a piece, but has yet to be given a chance at test level. Afghanistan have amazing strength in depth in the spin bowling department, and his test opportunity may never arrive.
- Zaheer Khan (India). A left arm fast medium bowler, his test average of 32 looks on the high side, but he rarely had much in the way of pace support (India having strength in depth in the pace bowling department is a recent phenomenon).
- Zahir Khan (Afghanistan). A left arm wrist spinner who claims his FC wickets at 21 a piece and bowled respectably in his three tests, though seven wickets at 34 a piece is a record that needs improvement.
This XI has a solid batting unit, a good keeper who can bat and four varied bowlers. It is a pity that the back up seam options are limited to Ibrahim Zadran and Billy Zulch, neither of whom could be classed as front line bowlers, but Zaheer Khan, Zondeki, Zia Ur Rehman and Zahir Khan should function fairly well as a main bowling attack.
The main rival to Fakhar Zaman as left handed opener was Hazratullah Zazai of Afghanistan, but though he has a respectable FC record he has yet to be picked for a test match. No right handed opener comes remotely close to challenging Ibrahim Zadran – while his test average of 44.50 comes from only eight innings at that level (no not outs to boost the average), his first class average of 41 comes from a much larger sample size and confirms his class. He averages about 18 runs an innings more than Zak Crawley at test level and 12 an innings more than the proven failure who happens to be a management favourite manages even at FC level.
Bas Zuiderent of the Netherlands played a fine innings against England in the 1996 World Cup, but overall his record is quite ordinary. Saif Zaib is an alleged batting all rounder, but his FC averages at the moment are the wrong way round – 22 with the bat and 31 with the ball. Tim Zoehrer was Zulqarnain’s rival for the gauntlets, but he had such a poor series in the 1986-7 Ashes that spectators at the MCG of all places were heard expressing the opinion that even the New South Welshman Greg Dyer would be in improvement on him (of course they really wanted their own Dimattina to get the job).
Mohammed Zanhar, a Sri Lankan leg spinner, took his FC wickets at 25 a piece, but only played 10 matches at that level. Adam Zampa has a great record in limited overs cricket, but his FC wickets come at massively pricey 48 runs a piece. Two fast bowlers, Dawlat Zadran of Afghanistan and Nuwan Zoysa of Sri Lanka (who once took a hat trick with his first three balls of a test match) entered my thoughts but neither had that great an overall record. Zak Chappell is expensive even at first class level, and is nearly as far short of meriting serious consideration as the other Zak I have mentioned in passing.
While I regret the absence of a genuine all rounder that omission could only be rectified by outright cheating, using a nickname to avail myself of ‘Zulu’ Klusener.
We have finished our cricketing journey through the letter Z and all that is left is my usual sign off…