|Born||2 May 1952 Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan|
|Occupation||Small business proprietor and professional cricketer|
|Debut||19 June 1982 v MCC at Eglinton|
|Style||Right-hand bat, right arm medium pace|
|Teams||Lahore Reds, Saraghoda, Punjab University, Pakistan International Airlines A, Pakistan International Airlines B, Lahore, Northamptonshire 2nd XI, Mitchell and Butlers, Phoenix, Rush, Coleraine, Malahide.|
|History||Afzal Masood - Alf as he was always known in Ireland, was probably the best batsman to appear in Irish cricket in the 1980s, and, indeed, in several other decades as well. At his best he could be utterly dominant, proving himself master of the best attacks, with a wide array of shots which always made him a most attractive player to watch. He was also, at club level, a most useful medium pacer, though he was less successful in this mode at representative cricket.
Making his first class debut in Pakistan as a schoolboy, he scored 1107 first class runs in domestic first class cricket in that country, with one century and four 50s. He played several matches with his brother Mohammed Akhtar, a good all round cricketer. Unfortunately, in an earlier version of this biography, following information on two major cricket websites, it was stated that Mohammed Akhtar had died in 1971. We are happy to report that this was untrue and very much regret any distress which may have been caused. |
Alf had already announced himself as a player of talent with two hundreds in a match against a Young England side, but his best performance in Pakistan cricket was probably as a 16 year old for Punjab University v Karachi Greens in 1968/69. Facing a score of 267-8, in a match in which both sides were limited to 75 overs in the first innings, he came in at No 3 to make a dominant 114, enabling his side to reach 325 in their allocated overs. When they chased 196 in the second innings, he again took charge, with 71* made out of 113 scored when he was at the wicket. He saw his team to a comfortable victory. He was, however, less fluent when he played for North Zone v MCC (as England then toured) in the same season. Coming in at 16/2, he was greeted by a rearing bouncer from John Snow, which struck him on the shoulder. However he then settled down to add 82 with Test batsman Mohammed Illyas. Wisden, however, was censorious, "Central Zone's slow batting on the first day killed interest in the match. Only Mohammed Illyas showed any enterprise." No praise for the teenage batsman, but the reporter was the irascible EM Wellings, who, though he spent a lifetime playing and watching cricket, seemed to find very little joy in it.
In 1972 Alf came to England in an attempt to gain a county contract. He had a successful season with Northamptonshire 2nd XI, heading their averages and, with the help of a few appearances the following season, totalled over 900 runs with one century and six 50s. His highest score in 1972 was a frustrating 99 v Derbyshire when he and left arm spinner, Dennis Breakwell, later to have a successful career for Somerset, put on 202 for the second wicket. Dennis made 106 but Alf's innings was terminated by the part time off breaks of John Harvey, who scored over 700 runs in first class cricket, but took only one wicket! He played only twice the following summer. Against Nottinghamshire at Balderston, he made a storming 110 in the second innings, before falling lbw to the leg spin of Nirmal Nanan. Unfortunately this was not enough to avoid a seven wicket defeat. In his last match v Leicestershire at Grace Road, he made 78 and 25. However Northamptonshire had their overseas quota and no contract was forthcoming. No doubt today, he could have found a county as a Kolpak player. He was not forgotten at home, being on standby for the 1972/73 Pakistan tour of Australia and New Zealand. Alf played briefly as a professional in the Birmingham League, but for several years after this hardly touched a bat. In 1980, he arrived in Dublin to open a chain of boutiques. He also joined Phoenix, with immediate success, winning the man of the match award in the Club's 150th anniversary match with Somerset, falling to his old team-mate Dennis Breakwell. Altogether in Leinster Senior career, which spanned two decades, broken by a brief sojourn as a professional with Coleraine, he scored 9477 runs at 51.22, with 23 hundreds and 48 fifties. His highest score 204* was made against The Hills in 1983. This was the first League double hundred scored since Gerry Duffy's 200* for Leinster v Phoenix in 1955, and was thus the first made since the competition became a limited overs one. He almost made the Marchant Cup a permanent possession in the early 80s, taking it in 1982, 1983 and 1985. For good measure he won the Samuels Cup for all rounders in the third season as well.
He was also invariably prominent in the Interprovincials for North Leinster. In a career which stretched from 1981 to 1995, he made 1313 runs at 69.10. His highest score was at Rathmines in 1983. South Leinster had made a formidable 262-4, but the visitors reached their target with six wickets standing. Alf finished on 196*, the next highest score was Neil Taylor's 25. The previous summer he had hit two centuries, a notable 100* against the strong Ulster Country attack at Phoenix, when aided by Enda McDermott in a first wicket stand of 138, he took his side's score to 202-4 declared. The visitors were bowled out for 182. Later in the season, he made an undefeated 119 out of a total of 168/1 to secure a 9 wicket win over Munster. He put his own record score under threat at Newforge in 1987 as North Leinster reached 300/5 v Ulster Country, Alf finishing on 178. His only bleak period in the tournament came in 1988, during his time as a professional in the North West, a move apparently forced on him by business problems, but by the early 1990s he was back with North Leinster. His final century came in 1994, his 120* saw his side to a declaration at 288-5. However Bobby Rao rose to the challenge striking a belligerent 104 to give North West a six wicket victory.
Alf made his debut for Ireland in 1982 and was to score 1940 runs at 38.50 with 4 hundreds and 11 fifties. He also became the first Irish batsman to pass 500 runs in a season, achieving this feat in 1986 and the following year. The first of his hundreds came in his first season, 109 v Wales in a 149 runs victory at Rathmines. His runs came in the first innings off 129 balls, including sixteen 4s and one 6, his knock lasting eight minutes under three hours. In 1985 he became the first Irish batsman to score centuries in successive matches. In a drawn one day match v the Duchess of Norfolk's XI at Arundel, he made 111, with 72 coming in boundaries, twelve 4s and four 6s Eventually dismissed by off spinner John Barclay, he had been dropped on 0. This was the 50th hundred for Ireland.
After the Wales game was abandoned, though a non cap 40 over game was played, Ireland moved on to Lord's where Alf hit an astonishing 138, reaching three figures before lunch. All told he batted 140 minutes, including three 6s and seventeen 4s. He put on 207 for the second wicket with Davy Dennison, but the match ended in a tense draw, the scores being level, the hosts having two wickets in hand. His fourth hundred was against Gloucestershire in a limited overs match at Downpatrick in 1987. Though Ireland lost the match by 6 wickets, his was the outstanding performance. The first hundred made for Ireland against a county side (Jack Short had had a near miss 99 v Sussex in the famous 1977 victory); it took him 144 minutes and included fourteen 4s.
His eleven half centuries included an undefeated 57 v MCC at Eglinton in the second innings of his debut match in 1982. He also made a brilliant 89 against Pakistan at Rathmines in 1987, in a match which Ireland lost on faster scoring rate. Alf came in at 5/1 after Stephen Warke had been dismissed for 1. Together with Mark Cohen, Alf then put on 134 for the second before Alf was caught off Tausig Ahmed an off spinner who took 93 Test wickets in his career. Alf had batted 82 minutes, hitting two 6s and thirteen 4s. That season he also hit a brilliant 84 against Sussex at Malahide, but probably his best half century was against the same opponents in Nat West Trophy match at Castle Avenue in 1983. His 69 won high praise from Imran Khan, playing for Sussex only as a batsman, who wanted him back in the Pakistan side. It also won him the man of the match award from Godfrey Evans.
Alf's career was not without controversy. Once, bowled first ball in a League match in College Park, he refused to leave the crease, claiming, with Grace like effrontery, not to have been ready! The umpires did not agree and he had to go. The Doctor, of course once went first ball in College Park also. On that occasion he did not argue. Alf was also twice banned from playing for Ireland for playing in a club match on the eve of an international fixture. He was also, in the last years of his career, prevented from playing for Rush, then a junior side, as a professional, as he was far too good a player to do so at that level. His career in senior cricket just overlapped with that of his son Imran Masood, who became a Phoenix regular, besides playing for age group representative sides. Mohammed Afzaal Masood has an unchallenged place among the great Batsmen in Ireland's Cricket History. He is deservedly profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats"
Edward Liddle, May 2009, Updated April 2012
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