Good Impression

When he was first drafted into the England squad at the start of this year, I had my doubts about Ajmal Shahzad, and expressed them here. I hadn't heard of him doing much in county cricket, and instinctively had my doubts about someone who, at the age of 24, had only played twenty-odd first-class matches and had never taken more than four wickets in an innings.

But then I'd never seen him bowl. Someone with a lot more knowledge of what to look for than me had seen something they liked, and off to Bangladesh he went. Until yesterday, though, he'd barely been seen in an England shirt, so we were all still guessing.

After a short, nervous contribution with the bat, he bowled his first spell during Bangladesh's Tamim-inspired opening onslaught. Once more he looked like someone who wasn't really sure that they belonged - hardly an unusual sentiment for a Test debutant with a limited and uneven record behind him - but in his second spell of the day it was finally possible to see for ourselves what the England hierarchy have seen in him.

A technically-correct but whippy and fluent action, sharp pace and a hint of swing was enough to see off three members of the lower order, and confirm Shahzad's place among the long list of bowlers who, while far from automatic choices, could well play a significant role in England's Test series against Pakistan and beyond.

And with uncertainty about the fitness of two other members of that group - Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan - Shahzad could be closer to playing a central role than he would, for all his obvious confidence, have believed a few days ago.

As and when the weather relents, his big challenge will be to build on what he did in the last hour yesterday, and it's going to be fun watching him try.


Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Hi Brian,

Not wanting to sound like I'm getting carried away by one spell of bowling, as he has a long, long way to go to prove the selectors right.

But I think we have to give credit to this group of selectors, and previous ones.

They have shown on many occasions that they can spot a player without any special county record, who they believe has something in his armoury that is good enough to get him by at test level.

I'm sure that there is many a seasoned county bowler with a far superior record than Shazad, as there are batsmen with far better county records than Morgan.

And in the past, Trescothick and Vaughan, it didn't stop Duncan Fletcher (or the selectors at the time) having the belief to back those two players.

I'm sure there is plenty more names we could pick out as well.

Its refreshing to see them check out different bolwers, rather than going back to the tried and tested failures of Mahmood and Plunkett (what happened to him on the winter tours by the way?).

Brian Carpenter said...

I totally agree about the selectors, Dean. They've got a lot right over the last year or so.

I thought Shahzad looked good again today, bowling Shakib with one that came back to the left-hander, and he was apparently the quickest bowler in the game on either side. Plenty to work with, and I expect him to stay close to the side, even after Broad returns.

It's very hard to see Mahmood or Plunkett ever playing for England again. Mahmood was a favourite of Fletcher and I always felt he'd never be seen again once he left, and Plunkett, largely because of his poor action, doesn't appear to me to have the potential of either Finn or Shahzad. I'm sure he'll go on taking wickets for Durham for many years, but England now look to have a bit of seam-bowling depth, which means Plunkett's unlikely to be required again unless he starts taking hatfuls of wickets or England suffer a major injury crisis.

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

I agree about Plunkett and Mahmood, both have been checked out by the selectors over the last 12 months and neither of them must have impressed, as both have disappeared of the scene again.

Shazad and Finn certainly look to have something, and Shazad did impress again today.

I wonder if England are going down the road of having a pool of bowlers to choose from now? I hope we are, as we will need them.

The Aussies seem to be doing it now. Only Mitchell Johnson seems to bowl in all forms of cricket for them.

While Anderson didn't bowl in the T20, he was still there. Broad was used, and I expect both will play in the upcoming ODIs and tests.

We could perhaps look at alternatives for the 50 over games, such as Sidebottom and Bresnan, who both look more suited to that format of the game.

Brian Carpenter said...

I think that's the most encouraging thing, Dean. We're developing a proper pool of seamers, and I agree that ODIs/T20 would have to be the future for Sidebottom, certainly, and probably Bresnan.

Sidebottom's body doesn't appear up to the rigours of Test cricket, and, for all his spirit, I can't see Bresnan as a really effective Test bowler outside the UK, and especially in Australia.

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