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Laughter and overs in the sunshine to remember a good friend lost

Zeeshan, 29, was fatally stabbed while working the night shift at Queanbeyan Caltex service station on Bungendore Road in April 2017.

After the first tribute game was held in Nicholls on Anzac Day last year, the event was shifted to Queanbeyan, with mayor Tim Overall waiving the ground-hire fees and four teams joining in a round-robin series of limited-overs matches.

Zeeshan Akbar was fatally stabbed while working the night shift at Queanbeyan Caltex in April 2017.

Zeeshan Akbar was fatally stabbed while working the night shift at Queanbeyan Caltex in April 2017.

Zeeshan Akbar grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and migrated to Melbourne on a skilled visa in 2009 to become a mechanic. He moved to Queanbeyan in 2015.

Jamil Siraj, a broadcaster and journalist, travelled with Zeeshan to Melbourne in early 2017 to watch the one-day cricket match between Pakistan and Australia. He described him as a “terrific friend and loving person”.

Jamil would provide the young fast bowler with video recordings of other bowlers to help him improve his skills and well remembers Zeeshan’s final local match.

“Zeeshan took three wickets in that game. He bowled very well that day,” he recalled.

Former colleague Umair Yousaf said that but for a quirk of fate his brother-in-law would have been working at the service station that fateful night.

“My brother-in-law Ramish was supposed to be working that night shift but swapped shifts with Zeeshan,” Umair said.

“I hadn’t known about the shift swap and when I heard something bad had happened that night at the service station, we were constantly ringing Ramish’s phone but he was asleep and wasn’t picking up.

“So it wasn’t some time later we found out what had happened.”

He said it was great that last year’s memorial match was not just a once-off.

“Given everyone has lots of other commitments, to get everyone coming back to play again is quite impressive,” he added.

“I really hope we can keep this going because it’s a great way to bring everyone together.”

Peter Brewer is a Canberra Times reporter.

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