Over the next term, HSC will be attempting to discover the identity of Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moment, with your help. This article recounts Zafar Ansari’s extraordinary summer starring for the First XI in 2010. This will compete against three other moments in Group Six. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
When Zafar Ansari joined Hampton School in the Third Form in the Autumn of 2005, his reputation as a cricketer preceded him. A star player at St John’s Beaumont prep school and a seasoned age-group Surrey player, Zafar was initially selected for Hampton’s U14A team. But he was quickly promoted to the First XI. As a result, every one of Zafar’s five summers at Hampton was spent in rarefied cricketing company. For example, First XI captain in his first year was Toby Roland-Jones, who, like Zafar, went on to play for England.
The wider cricketing world was also becoming aware of Zafar’s unusual talents as a cricketer, and not long after he joined Hampton, he was invited to captain the England Under 15 side. Other tributes followed. In 2006, he became the youngest cricketer to be awarded a Bunbury Cricket Scholarship, an award he shared with the fifteen-year-old Joe Root, with whom he was also awarded a place at the ECB Academy. In the following year he became the first cricketer to be awarded a Bunbury Scholarship two years running. At a time when other prominent young cricketers included Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, Ansari emerged, the Daily Telegraph reported, as a young cricketer with “outstanding natural ability, a cricket brain and bags of enthusiasm.” As well as representing England at Under 15 level, Zafar also played for the Under 17 and Under 19 teams.
Zafar had honed his ability to bat for long periods at county level. He had played for Surrey at age-group level since the age of nine: among his highlights was an innings of 145 not out for Surrey against Cornwall. His slow left arm bowling was also beginning to catch the eye, with a penetrative 6 for 33 for the South against the Midlands in the Bunbury Festival serving notice of an outstanding cricketing all-rounder in the making. In 2010, his final season at Hampton, Zafar was named the leading all-rounder in schools cricket by the Cricket Society. Five years later he would be named leading all-rounder in the first-class game by the same body.
Zafar’s final summer in schools cricket saw him dominant with bat and ball. At the crease he scored 1111 runs at an average of over one hundred, including eight centuries. His highest score was 179 in 50 overs against Eton College, sending the Berkshire side to the second-heaviest defeat in their history. It had been a good year: Zafar also took 35 wickets for the school, at an average of 10.87, as well as captaining the side with his habitual grace and modesty. It is now almost a decade since that golden summer, but Zafar’s record-breaking achievements in 2010 while he juggled with academic and other duties serve as a reminder that he was and is an all-rounder in more than a merely cricketing sense.
After receiving a Double First from Cambridge and starring for Surrey, Zafar was first picked for England in 2015, and later earned something that children across the land dream of: a Test cap for his country. Yet Zafar would retire in early 2017, seeking a change from the luscious landscapes of the sport, opting to pursue a career in law.