Royal London One-Day Cup: Ashar Zaidi offers to move up Essex batting order to kickstart cup campaign
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 May 2018
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Explosive all-rounder has been in form with the bat so far
In-form batsman Ashar Zaidi has stuck his hand up and offered to move up the order to help kick-start Essex’s stuttering Royal London Cup campaign ahead of a run of three successive home games.
Essex have lost two of their three 50-over games on the road so far, despite Zaidi coming in at No7 and contributing 139 runs this week with a top-score 82 at Gloucestershire and an unbeaten 57 against Hampshire. One win from those three matches leaves Essex slightly off the pace in the South section and looking to make the their residency at Chelmsford, starting with the day-night game against Somerset today (2pm), and continuing against Surrey on Sunday and Glamorgan on Wednesday (both 11am).
And Zaidi reckons his promotion in the batting line-up could do the trick. “I would love to bat up the order,” he says, “and go in at No4. I feel I’m in good form and the higher I go up the order, the more overs, the more time I’m given to bat, the better. The strike-rate I go at gives me a big chance to get a big score.”
The 36-year-old Pakistan all-rounder has spoken to captain Ryan ten Doeschate and head coach Anthony McGrath about the possibility. “Yes, we’ve been in touch, we’ve been in talks,” he says. “Everything is discussed, team plans, everything.
“As we’ve been doing in T20 cricket, when the coach and the captain feel it is favourable for me going up the order, then generally I’ve been in within the first six or seven overs. So I’m sure when they feel the opportunity is there, they will make sure I get that opportunity.”
Zaidi added: “What we are missing at the moment is one guy to go on and score a big hundred. As we saw in the first game against Middlesex, Tom Westley got a hundred and everyone played around him and it was a very easy chase. In the last two games that’s not been the case. I think one of our top five or six need to stand up and score that hundred.”
With wickets tumbling after openers Adam Wheater and Varun Chopra have established an early platform, Zaidi has been coming in with between a dozen and 20 overs to go and been able to play himself in before exploding in the latter stages.
“When I went in on Wednesday, I think there were about 12 overs left, so the situation demanded that I just stay around, get a feel for it and support Ravi [Bopara], who was the main batsman at the time. We needed to get a little partnership going to give us a platform to launch a late attack on the bowlers.”
Essex have used Zaidi primarily as a white-ball specialist, and he has hit the ground running in the Royal London competition thanks to some strong performances in the 2nd XI and in the Shephard Neame Essex League Premier for Ilford. He hammed 101 off 64 balls in the opening 2nd XI fixture against former club Sussex, and 92 (110 balls), 70 (56 balls) and 36 not out (35 balls) in club cricket.
“For me, what I would pass on to any youngster who wants to be a pro cricketer, is you cannot beat time in the middle at any given opportunity. There have been times that I’ve played midweek or Sunday league games that are absolutely irrelevant, but time in the middle, having fielders around you, is the best feeling. It’s a pressure that your body and mind can absorb, and it can help you so much when you are actually there playing in the first team in a big, crunch, pressure match. Because of that preparation, you are always one step ahead of the opposition.”
As for Essex’s prospects over the next six days, Zaidi says: “It’s a massive, massive phase in the context of the season. These games come thick and fast and you don’t have time to think about whether you’ve lost or won. By the time you realise, the next game is almost there. But there are three games at home and that gives you the edge. Everyone is raring to go.”
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