Ashar Zaidi ready to thrill for Essex in T20 Blast

Ashar Zaidi is ready to thrill for Essex in the T20 Blast. Picture: ARCHANT

Ashar Zaidi is ready to thrill for Essex in the T20 Blast. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Su Anderson

Ashar Zaidi showed he is nicely in tune for Essex’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign by smacking a six first ball over the bowler’s head in a warm-up game this week.

The bars around the Cloudfm County Ground will empty at every one of Essex’s seven home group matches when the pint-sized left-hander strides out to the middle, starting tomorrow night against Surrey (7pm).

The crowd-pleasing big-hitter, nicknamed Boom Boom, sounds like a boxer with tickets to sell when he says: “I am feeling quite confident about how hard I’ve been hitting the ball in the nets and in second-team games.

“My feeling is if the ball is there then I’ll back myself to hit it to the boundary, and the maximum option as well.”

Zaidi is box-office gold for Essex, not that they need to talk up the competition: tomorrow night’s opening fixture is already sold out, and there is limited availability for the rest.

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Zaidi’s statistics paint a picture of muscular power and skill. Others may have scored more runs, hit more sixes and posted a higher average in last year’s domestic competition.

No one, though, bettered his seriously-high strike-rate of 168.83, and that is the measure of success in T20. Sixty-one per cent of his 363 runs came in boundaries, 23 of them clearing the ropes. He averaged more than 40 every time he went to the crease, which isn’t bad for primarily a middle-order batsman.

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However, when asked to nominate the innings from 2016 that stood out to him, he went for one that only contained two fours and one six, but set up Essex for a three-run win at Hampshire.

“It was on a tricky wicket and showed how I could do a job,” he said of the comparatively pedestrian 43-ball 47.

“The big innings was the one against Middlesex at Lord’s when we had to win to qualify for the quarter-finals, and I got us over the line.”

Left unsaid was that Zaidi smashed 38 off the last nine balls, and took just 24 deliveries to reach an unbeaten 59, his career-best T20 score.

“Sometimes,” he says, “the smaller totals to win a game are just as important. But I was pretty pleased with my efforts last year. Hopefully, I can repeat them this season.”

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