Canadian cricketer Saad Bin Zafar makes history, headlines with perfect bowling day

·4 min read

Canadian cricketer Saad Bin Zafar is making waves and headlines around the world.

"Unknown cricketer writes name into history books with international T20 record," said England's Daily Mirror.

"Canada's Saad Bin Zafar makes T20 history," read the New Zealand Herald headline.

On Nov. 14 in Antigua and Barbuda, the 35-year-old from Brampton, Ont., made cricket history by becoming the first bowler to bowl four overs without conceding a run in an international T20 match as Canada beat Panama at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Americas Qualifier.

T20 is a swashbuckling shortened form of cricket, with teams each playing innings of 20 overs (with six balls per over). Batsmen are always on the attack, looking to score runs quickly.

Australia, for example, averaged 9.18 runs per over in defeating New Zealand to win the recent ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Dubai. The Aussies reached the victory target of 173 in the 19th over to win by eight wickets.

On the same day some 11,725 kilometres away, Zafar blanked Panama for four overs — delivering 24 balls without cost and taking two wickets in the process.

After winning the toss, Canada elected to bat and put up a total of 245 for one over its allotted 20 overs at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Osbourn, Antigua, with Rayyan Pathan leading the way at 107 not out. The Canadians then removed the Panamanians for just 37 runs in 17.2 overs.

Bowlers are restricted to four overs in T20 cricket, meaning Zafar had a perfect day — with four maiden overs.

"It's more important to be economical than picking up wickets in T20 … The batsmen are always looking to score runs," Zafar explained. "They don't take their time. They just try to hit every ball they can and score maximum runs."

He didn't realize he had entered the record books until his coach told him after the match.

Once word got out, the left-arm orthodox spin bowler found himself in demand, with media from around the world — including his birthplace of Pakistan — reaching out.

"It's been quite pleasing that people in different countries are highlighting it and putting the news out," Zafar said in an interview.

Zafar, who came to Canada from Pakistan at 17, has a background in business administration/finance and used to be a procurement analyst for Aviva Canada, an insurance company.

But he quit, electing to work part-time in auto sales to make more time for his sport while helping pay the bills.

And with all deference to the Daily Mirror, Zafar is not unknown in cricket circles.

He was named man of the match in the final of the inaugural Global T20 Canada tournament in 2018, helping a star-studded Vancouver Knights side to a seven-wicket victory over the West Indies B team in King City, Ont. Zafar took two wickets and scored 79 not out, slamming eight fours and three sixes in a 48-ball innings, in the championship game.

He was the Knights' leading wicket-taker in the 2019 tournament in Brampton, where Vancouver finished runner-up to the Winnipeg Hawks. Zafar also earned man of the match honours in a playoff win over the Brampton Wolves that year.

Zafar made his Canadian debut in 2008 and has been a regular since 2015. Canada does not have test status so is restricted to T20 and one-day internationals (50 overs).

He plays club cricket for the Brampton Masters but his sport often takes him abroad to join other squads. Zafar has also played twice in the Caribbean Premier League. He will be flying south to play in a tournament next month in Fort Lauderdale.

Canada's size and weather complicates life for cricketers.

"There's a lot of potential here. The only reason we don't do really well at the world stage is not because we're less talented. It's just because we are unable to play more games throughout the year," said Zafar. "The other teams … most of them they're playing all year-round so they're more experienced than us."

Zafar has to practise indoors in winter — or head south to play for invitational teams.

"That's what we do to stay competitive," he said. "It's still not enough but that's the best we can do."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played havoc with the schedule, essentially sidelining the Canadian team for close to two years.

Canada (5-1-0) finished runner-up to the U.S. (6-0-0) at the recent seven-country regional qualifier in Antigua.

Both teams now advance to one of two eight-country global qualifying tournaments, either in Dubai in February or Zimbabwe in May.

"It will be a tougher competition," said Zafar.

Four teams will emerge from the two global qualifiers to join host Australia and the 11 automatic qualifiers from the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 to make up the 16-team Men’s T20 World Cup 2022.

Canada has never qualified for the tournament.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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