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Usman Afzaal in action for England
Born: 9.6.77
Birthplace: Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Played for: England, Northants, Notts
Bowling: Slow left-arm spin
Batting: Left-hand

Over the next few years English cricket could soon be very grateful to the efforts of Usman Afzaal on two fronts.

On the pitch, the Northamptonshire batsman is hoping to be knocking out the runs for England again after losing his place four years ago.

Off it, Afzaal's Cricketing Elite (ACE) is being relaunched - a scheme he founded in 2000 which helps cricketers of all ages and ability to improve their game and assist those aspiring to play at a higher level.

"It doesn't mean everybody who joins the academy has to want to be a professional cricketer," Afzaal told BBC Sport.

"We have got a lot of people who are just trying to better their cricket.

"There are some players who have played third-team cricket for their club sides and now want to play second or first-team cricket, and we'll be working on them in the same way."

ACE host development days and 15-week Academy programmes where players are taught skills in batting, bowling and fielding and educated about fitness, nutrition and psychological aspects of the game.

And the tuition comes from the very top.

England stars such as Mark Butcher, Mark Ramprakash, Owais Shah, Andrew Caddick and Alex Tudor are on duty for the latest events set to take place across England's top Test venues.

Everyone is welcome to apply to attend the courses. The dates are:

  • South region: Jan 7/8 at The Oval, London

  • North region: Jan 29 at Old Trafford, Manchester

  • Midland region: Feb 25/26 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham

    And if anybody has any doubts about the courses, then take a look at Shaftab Khalid.

    His spinning talent was recognised by the scheme's coaches - he then went on to gain a contract with Worcestershire and tour with the England A team in 2004.

    So if you've got dreams to play for England or just want to try cricket then this could be the perfect opportunity.

    Afzaal added: "It's a big thing for young players to be working with the likes of Mark Butcher and Mark Ramprakash.

    "If I were in their shoes, if I were 19 and not playing professional cricket, I would definitely attend."

    Phone: 0870-757 3132

    Interview: Northamptonshire batsman Usman Afzaal



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