Thursday, 9 November 2006

England's secret weapon

Sajid Mahmood is certainly an unknown quantity. Though 24, he is invariably liable to lose his radar and, as he has proved by going at over six an over during his 15 ODIs, can certainly be hit out of the attack. But he improved gradually over the summer and, in impressing against Australia at the ICC Champions Trophy, has given himself every chance of playing in the Ashes.

Mahmood, tall and with the ability to generate swing to supplement his express pace, has all the raw attributes required to be a fantastic fast-bowler. His wrist, which has been identified as a reason for his chronic inconsistency, is slowly becoming less crocked. Bowling the full length that so memorably accounted for Messrs Gilchrist and Ponting in India, Mahmood, if selected ahead of James Anderson, will fundamentally be Simon Jones’ replacement.

With England seemingly almost certain to begin the series with five bowlers, Mahmood could well come in at six wickets down. Although this is probably a place too high for him, Mahmood’s aggressive batting has sealed England’s last two victories in ODI cricket, and he could score some useful runs.

Any doubts over Mahmood’s temperament were surely put to rest when he responded to Pakistaini fans calling him “traitor” by taking 4-22 to seal series victory for England last summer. The Australian pitches certainly suit him; if he can refrain from bowling boundary balls, Mahmood will go a considerable way to filling the shoes of Simon Jones.

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