Former Bangladesh Test captain Mohammed Ashraful on course to join select club with 1,000 plus Southern Premier League runs in a season

Former Bangladesh captain Mohammed Ashraful on his way to a Southern Premier  League century at Waterlooville last weekend. Picture by Martyn WhiteFormer Bangladesh captain Mohammed Ashraful on his way to a Southern Premier  League century at Waterlooville last weekend. Picture by Martyn White
Former Bangladesh captain Mohammed Ashraful on his way to a Southern Premier League century at Waterlooville last weekend. Picture by Martyn White
Fraser Hay’s boots were fairly big ones to fill down at St Helens on the Southsea seafront.

After all, the Australian was a prolific run-getter during his five seasons playing in the Southern Premier League for Portsmouth.

In four of those seasons, Hay was among the top nine scorers across the entire four tiers of the SPL.

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Last year he was third highest, with 654 runs - the second best total amassed by a Portsmouth player in the 21st century.

Almost inevitably, Hay holds that record - compiling 664 in his debut 2016 season on Portsea Island when he was just 20.

That form earned him 12 appearances in the Hampshire 2nd XI, and a summer contract a year later.

In total, Hay scored 2,866 SPL runs for Portsmouth at an average of 46.98, with 18 half-centuries and six hundreds. As I said, big boots.

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This year, Portsmouth looked elsewhere for an overseas player. And the one they found could well rewrite their record books.

Mohammed Ashraful, of course, is no ‘ordinary’ foreign import, no youngster still finding his feet in the sport and wanting a summer in England to help hone his talents.

No, the 39-year-old is a veteran of 259 senior Bangladesh international appearances - 61 Tests, 175 one-dayers and 23 T20s. He captained his country in 13 Tests and 38 ODIs.

He has six Test centuries on his CV, a total of 21 first-class hundreds, three ODI tons and a T20 century.

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He enjoyed a stellar start to his international career, becoming the youngest Test centurion - aged just 17 years and 61 days - when he scored 114 on debut against Sri Lanka.

That beat the previous record, held by Pakistan’s Mushtaq Mohammad since 1961, by just 17 days. It is a record Ashraful still holds.

(For comparison’s sake, England’s youngest Test centurion is Denis Compton, who reached three figures aged 20 years and 18 days in an Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in 1938).

Four years after his debut Test ton, Ashraful hit a maiden one-day century when he made 100 at exactly a run a ball in a famous 50-over victory over Australia at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

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With such a glittering CV, you might expect Ashraful to be prolific in the second tier of the Southern Premier League.

And so far, you’d be right.

Last weekend’s maiden Portsmouth hundred, 115 against Waterlooville, took him to the top of the entire SPL run charts.

That followed scores of 64 (on debut v OTs & Romsey), 75 not out (v Totton & Eling), 69 (v Hook & Newnham) and 66 not out (v Ventnor).

He now has 446 runs from seven innings at an average of 111.5 - 28 more runs than Sarisbury’s Tom Morton, who has only had six visits to the crease as his side’s Division 1 game at Ventnor was washed out last Saturday.

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If he continues to score at his present rate, Ashraful would end the 18-game SPL campaign with 1,134 runs.

As it stands, only five batters have reached the 1,000 run SPL milestone in a season since Hampshire legend Robin Smith set a new record with 1,015 for Trojans in 1982.

Smith’s record was beaten twice in 2003, when South African Erasmus Hendriske - also playing for Trojans - hit 1,025 Division 3 runs. That same year, Kiwi Neal Parlane set a new record with 1,074 for Totton-based BAT in the top flight.

He held the record for just two years before Purbrook’s Will Prozesky compiled 1,076.

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That record stood until the 2022 campaign, when South African Matt De Villiers struck 1,234 runs for Hambledon in the third tier.

In the same year, Morton set a new SPL top flight seasonal record with 1,213 runs for South Wilts.

Next up for Ashraful and Portsmouth is a home fixture with rock bottom Calmore, the only team still without a Division 1 victory, at St Helens this Saturday.

Hay, meanwhile, is finding life a bit tougher playing for Ashton-on-Mersey in the Cheshire League this year.

In nine league innings, he has scored a total of 122 runs so far at an average of just 15.25.

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