Can Haseeb Hameed avoid diversions?

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Timing is important. Ask anyone who has sat in a long line of cars at a temporary set of traffic lights, gazing wearily at a conspicuously queue-free expanse of empty asphalt at the other end of the cones. When timing is on your side, things open up for you. When it isn’t, you’re probably going to have to wait.

Back in 2016, the lights were green for Haseeb Hameed. England floated the idea of maybe picking him, even though he was just 19, and he carried on making first-class runs, so they did. He duly made 82 against India on his Test debut and a couple of Tests later an unbeaten 59 with a finger that was broken into “two pieces” (according to Trevor Bayliss).

Unfortunately, Hameed then began batting badly enough to be relegated to Lancashire’s second XI. A year or so later, they declined to give him a new contract.

At this point, we listed him as one of five lost England cricketers of the 2010s – albeit with a disclaimer that we didn’t expect him to be lost for good.

He duly moved to Nottinghamshire, where he teamed up with Peter Moores, the man who as England coach had taken a young Lancashire seamer drifting through his career bowling at a single stump during lunch breaks and asked him to open the bowling. That decision worked out well.

Say what you like about Moores’ England record, but he can spot a good young player and he knows how to support them. Stuart Broad, Matt Prior and Graeme Swann all came to prominence during his first stint in charge of England.

Lancashire’s relationship with Hameed had grown very complicated. His dealings with Moores have been, we would guess, more straightforward.

> Haseeb Hameed, relationships and the toughness of love

In the summer of 2021, he’d done enough to earn another stab at Test cricket. He made a couple of fifties, but 80 runs in four Ashes Tests later in the year resulted in another dropping. Even though he’s still only 27 – the age at which Andrew Strauss made his Test debut – it’s not so easy to see how he can get back into the team again now.

His Test record is part of that obviously. While Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash accumulated almost as many recalls as caps back in the 1990s, each dropping only serves to increase the England selectors’ reluctance to pick you these days.

But it’s more the vibe of things, isn’t it? It’s the more type of player he is perceived to be. It was never remotely fair that Hameed was labelled Baby Boycott, but even inaccurate quasi-jokes leave a greasy residue that is hard to wash off.

Hameed is not an idiot. He is aware of the situation. Reflecting on that Ashes tour to the Independent last year, he very obviously attempted to talk the talk.

“We went into our shells a bit,” he said. “We got a bit defensive, a bit ‘survival mode’ and as a result we all suffered. Now it’s almost like, if in doubt, you take the other option – you try and put the pressure back on them. You take the positive option and you’ll be backed for it.

“That’s a key change in our cricket system in general. The interesting thing for me is it coincides with a similar shift that I’ve made at a similar time. You have your typical Test match opener, which is what I was trying to play like before, but there is also a side of me – which maybe a few more people have seen now – which takes me back to my junior days; a side that enjoys hitting the ball.”

In terms of walking the walk, Hameed hit a career-best 247 not out against Lancashire last week. While no-one’s disregarding a double hundred because the batter scored at three-an-over, it does feel like a thing that has some small bearing on the status of the traffic lights at the minute.

A quick County Championship state-of-play

All the major County Championship developments came at the top and bottom of the table last week. (We suppose they always do really.) Surrey won and returned to the top of the table. In large part thanks to Hameed, Lancashire lost and laid down even stronger roots at the bottom. The mid-table teams all drew.

We now enter a two-week phase that we forgot to log in our Championship season breakdown where all 10 first division teams are again playing each week.

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  1. Just checking in to give a shout to Nicolaj (“Nicolaj”) Damgaard Laegsgaard of the Munster Reds.

    One of the great names.

    1. If Damgaard Laegsgaard wasn’t a Danish new wave band that became a global phenomenon in the 1980s, then somebody missed a trick.

    2. Anyone know why he hasn’t been bowling for the Reds this season? He did last season – a handy left-arm spinner who took 3/23 against Scotland at an important World Cup qualifier last year, and has 9th most C&Bs in T20Is of any bowler. Very unusual for a Dane to play top class professional cricket as a spinner – Ole Henrik “Blood-Axe” Mortensen, Amjad Khan, Søren Henriksen and Thomas Munkholt Hansen were seamers (as was Søren Vestergaard but he only played Second XI matches); Freddie Klokker a wicket-keeper. I thought he might be the only one but a bit of digging reveals Johan Anders Malcolm-Hansen was an off-spinning all-rounder.

      We aren’t likely to see any new Danish or Dutch players in county cricket, as they’d count as an overseas player these days – I wonder if the Irish inter-pro is where they’re all going to turn up.

  2. It’s surely all eyes on the next Ashes between now and winter 25/26, which massively reduces Hameed’s chances of selection unless it all goes horribly wrong for quite a few metaphorical cabs that are now ahead of him on the metaphorical cab rank.

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