Saturday, 30 September 2006

Sweeping to success

Jamie Tabord profiles Mal Loye, and asks whether he can still harbour hopes of international recognition

Mal Loye has been one of the mainstays of the Lancashire batting line-up since his arrival from Northamptonshire in 2003. His consistency has led him to become one of the most reliable cricketers on the county circuit in all forms of the game. His aggressive, if slightly unorthodox style, has recently been recognised with a call up for England’s provisional 30-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy. Many felt he should have been included in the final party.

Loye started his career at Northamptonshire and represented firstly England under 19s, and then England A team in successive years in 1995 and 1996. A devastating top order batsman, particularly in the one-day game where he averages an impressive 35 in over 250 games, he seemed destined for England honours from early in his career.

Loye had an impressive year in 1998, scoring almost 1200 first class runs, including a triple century against Glamorgan. His 322 not out remains the county’s scoring record and Loye was told he was to be picked for the final test of the summer against South Africa. However, only three hours later, the selectors decided to pick Steve James instead and, although he made the A team tour to South Africa that winter, he slipped down the pecking order after that.

The England selection fiasco affected his batting and his career dipped over the next two seasons when he failed to score a first class century. In 2001 he was back, averaging 55 and scoring three tons.

Loye joined Lancashire at the start of the 2003 campaign and helped them to second in the County Championship with an average of over 50 and five more hundreds.

Since then Loye has gone from strength to strength. He averaged 49 in 2004 and 2005, and opened the batting in one day and 20/20 games.

Loye has developed a unique slog sweep, which he uses against the quicker bowlers, and has earnt him a lot of runs in shorter versions of the game. He is the only batsman brave enough to sweep Shoaib Akhtar for six!

He has over 600 runs in 20/20 cricket and has been singled out by David Graveney as a possible specialist for the international form of the game. Perhaps Graveney should take note of Loye’s form in the County Championship. His six centuries in 2006 helped Lancashire come so close to recording their first Championship outright in over 70 years.

Many people thought Loye had missed the boat for international honours but if he keeps piling on the runs he will increase the pressure on the selectors to consider him, not just for the one day side, but perhaps even the test team.

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