March 23, 1998, Paktia
Left hand Bat
Slow Left arm Orthodox
Afghanistan's ascent up the global rankings from ICC Associate nation to Full Member and Test status has been largely propelled by a conveyor belt of fast bowling and mystery spin. But the country has struggled to unearth quality batting prospects at the same rate as their bowling unit. The emergence of the hard-hitting Hazratullah Zazai is a sign that this may change early in the country's Full Member era.
A tall, hulking presence at the crease, Zazai made waves as a 20-year-old by striking back-to-back half-centuries in just his second and third matches to ensure a T20I series sweep of Ireland. In the final match at Bready, he single-handedly outscored Ireland with his 82 off 54 balls, which included seven sixes.
If that wasn't enough to grab headlines, then hitting six sixes in an over less than two months later did the trick while batting for Kabul Zwanan against Balkh Legends in the inaugural season of the Afghanistan Premier League in Sharjah. Having already bashed a 44-ball ton earlier in the tournament, Zazai's intimidation factor grew exponentially when he became the sixth batsman in competitive cricket, and third in T20s, to achieve the six sixes feat after carving up left-arm spinner Abdullah Mazari to put his name alongside Yuvraj Singh and Garry Sobers, among others, in the record books. Hidden in the euphoria of the six sixes was the fact that Zazai matched Yuvraj and Chris Gayle for the fastest fifty in all T20 cricket off 12 balls.
In February 2019, he belted an unbeaten 162 off 62 balls against Ireland in just his fifth T20I which included a record 16 sixes, one of many benchmarks set on the day both for himself and Afghanistan in a world record T20 total of 278. Time will tell if Zazai can make a similar impact in ODI and Test cricket for Afghanistan.
Peter Della Penna
Batting & Fielding