Tag: Sajid Mahmood

It didn’t always seem so obvious that Liam Plunkett wasn’t Sajid Mahmood

There was a time when Liam Plunkett was spoken about in much the same way as Sajid Mahmood. Then there was another time when Liam Plunkett was spoken about in much the same way as Sajid Mahmood. It seems safe to assume that it won’t happen a third time – other than in this article.

This article looks back on the first two occasions when Liam Plunkett was spoken about in much the same way as Sajid Mahmood.

First, a reminder

This is Sajid Mahmood.

Sajid Mahmood (photo by Sarah Ansell)

To many of you, Sajid Mahmood’s face will be a very familiar face, but it occurs to us that some of you may never have even seen him.

Saj hasn’t played international cricket since 2009, which is one thing – but he hasn’t even played first-class cricket since 2014.

Four years is quite a difficult time gap to appreciate. Four years ago feels roughly the same as the present day, but at the same time it also seems poised to stroll through to an era where you can legitimately reminisce.

Four years ago, the most recent Star Wars film was shit. Four years ago, you hadn’t heard Uptown Funk even once.

Point is, Saj’s cricket career isn’t currently at its zenith.

The first time people spoke about Liam Plunkett in much the same way as Sajid Mahmood

In 2004, England picked Sajid Mahmood for their one-day international (ODI) side. In 2005, they picked Liam Plunkett for the Test team and then almost immediately for ODIs as well. Early in 2006, Sajid Mahmood made his Test debut.

These were exciting times and these were exciting bowlers. They bowled quickly and they were both in their early 20s. As it became increasingly apparent that Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Simon Jones maybe weren’t the kinds of bowlers who would venture far into their thirties, Liam and Saj were (briefly) viewed as The Future.

The second time people spoke about Liam Plunkett in much the same way as Sajid Mahmood

By the end of 2007, Liam Plunkett had 23 Test wickets at 39.82 and Sajid Mahmood had 20 wickets at 38.10. Both were run-conceding machines. Plunkett was going at 3.57 runs an over and Mahmood was going at 4.04.

They played two Tests together and while the second one went quite well, both their reputations were bound to the Idol of Many Hands and thrown off the dock into the sea by the first one. It was the one where Sri Lanka made 537-9 following on and Andrew Flintoff tried to bowl himself into a debilitating bout of rigor mortis.

Their one-day records at this point also encouraged the notion that the two of them were basically the same shit player. Plunkett had taken 37 ODI wickets at 34.05 with an economy rate of 5.85. Mahmood had 29 at 38.89 and was conceding runs at the exact same rate.

That rate seems unspectacular nowadays, but let us tell you this was still a time when commentators would spend 10 overs talking portentously about the moment when the required run-rate would finally exceed a run a ball.

Whenever anyone said something about Liam Plunkett or Sajid Mahmood in 2007, they said it in a sort of groaning sigh and what they said, every single time, was: “Why do they keep picking him?”

Act II

In The Secret of Monkey Island, the character you play, Guybrush Threepwood, can hold his breath for ten minutes. When he is thrown off the dock tethered to the weighty-looking fabulous idol, you have these ten minutes to escape.

All Sajid Mahmood managed to do was slowly turn green, but Liam Plunkett at some point hit upon the solution. The solution is that you pick up the idol, pocket it, and climb out of the sea. (This analogy doesn’t actually extend to the solution – we only mention it because the solution is a very wonderful and funny thing.)

Plunkett is the elder statesman of England’s one-day bowling attack these days and he has become the quick bowler they absolutely rely upon for wickets when the opposing batsmen start to take flight.

Plunkett bangs in the short one; he bobbles in the short one; and he sometimes spears it or bobbles it at the stumps. He bowls all of these things reliably and he cycles through them until one works – and generally one does.

Where things stand today

Liam Plunkett now has over a hundred ODI wickets at under 30. And let us tell you about his economy rate, because this is so marvellous and we are so happy with these numbers.

We took the end of 2007 as being the end of Act I of Liam Plunkett’s career because while he played the odd international after that point, they were very occasional and he’d definitely fallen into the “only if we’ve suffered plenty of injuries” category.

As we said before, at the end of 2007, Liam Plunkett’s ODI economy rate was an eye-watering 5.85. As the world has reshaped itself around him, his economy rate has dropped from to a more-than-handy 5.84. (Isn’t that great?)

So, okay, not all of the numbers properly tell the story of how Plunkett has gone from “why do they keep picking him?” to World Cup linchpin. You can comprehend it better by looking back on matches like the one on Saturday when he beasted four wickets and secured an England win.

(Quick late digression: One of the umpires for that match was Alex Wharf, who was England’s very next ODI debutant after Sajid Mahmood. Alex Wharf’s debut went well. He was man of the match.)

While he might be knocking on a little, Liam Plunkett’s cricket career is pretty much at its peak.

In contrast, Sajid Mahmood was last seen literally pretending to be a bowler in a TV advert for a betting company.

Sajid Mahmood batting at five?

Sajid Mahmood will tell his kids he once batted at number five - they won't believe himYes, it did happen and he wasn’t a nightwatchman because it was a Twenty20 match – the quarter-final against Essex.

It makes a kind of sense. Sajid Mahmood’s been batting surprisingly well for Lancashire this season, hitting four fifties in his 10 first-class innings and scoring at quite a lick. He made 34 off 17 balls.

It’s still as weird as our work colleague who says things like: “You know that shop that’s an H and then an ‘and’ and then an M?” though.

Stephen Moore and Sajid Mahmood

A man with ambitions to play for Lancashire's second XIDurham aren’t the only team who are currently muddling by with about one and a half batsmen. Lancashire’s current mediocrity is largely due to a batting order that starts at six with Steven Croft and ends at seven with Glen Chapple.

Actually, that’s not fair. Sajid Mahmood has been playing a blinder at number nine. He may have only scored 273 runs to proper batsman Stephen Moore‘s 277, but he has had three fewer innings and his season average of 34 pisses on Moore’s 25. Mahmood’s four fifties piss on Moore’s two as well. And he scores faster.

Stephen Moore’s only been at Lancashire for a few matches, but we already know we’re not going to warm to him. Why? Because he’s employed a PR agency to send out press releases pushing his England claims every time he manages to wipe his arse without injuring himself.

New rule: If you’ve got international ambitions, shut up about them if your batting’s absolute dog-toss.

Here’s some more about Lancashire’s batting that still rings true even though we wrote it a couple of years ago.

Sajid Mahmood actually takes five wickets

Saj Mahmood taking 3-70 or summatDo you know how rare that is? Lots of smart-arse Mahmood critics will say that they do know, but that’s not really the point we’re making.

Saj Mahmood has spent a good portion of his career bowling first-change for Lancashire. When there are good bowling conditions, he might pick up two or three wickets. When it’s tough for bowlers, he gets more overs and chips away.

Unlike a lot of people, we still rate Saj Mahmood very highly as a fast bowler. If there’s one criticism we have, it’s of what goes on in his head.

He’s not thick; he’s just got far less experience of running through a batting side than he should have. It’s an unfamiliar experience for him and he maybe doesn’t believe that he can do it. A fast bowler who has demolished a few sides thinks that he can do it again, but this was only Saj Mahmood’s sixth five wicket haul in first-class cricket. 5-55 against Kent isn’t Waqar Younis territory and three were tail-enders, but it’s not bad.

It’s every bowler’s aim, but Saj Mahmood really does need to take a Himalayan-sized heap of wickets this season. He doesn’t need people admiring his reverse swing or clocking his pace. He needs to get loads of batsmen out. He needs to believe that batsmen don’t want to face him.

Promising English fast bowlers like Sajid Mahmood

Saj Mahmood puts his hand up - and his other handEngland are generally impatient with promising young players. They bring them in, everyone who can voice an opinion takes it in turns to daub them in excrement and then it takes six years for the smell to wear off.

Let’s make a comparison. Sajid Mahmood and Mitchell Johnson were born within a couple of months of each other. Both were branded ‘once in a generation’ bowlers early in their career.

Sajid Mahmood was hastily picked for England, played a few matches and got his various slower balls carted to all parts. He played eight Tests, three on an Ashes tour and played his last Test in January 2007.

In contrast, Mitchell Johnson made his debut in November 2007 and has lasted the course.

Now we know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that Mahmood’s whiff of excrement is from his bowling, while Mitchell Johnson is moulded out of solid magic by the hands of God.

That might be a little extreme and it might also have a little truth in it, but that’s not the point we’re making.

Our point is that Mahmood is currently among the most promising English fast bowlers around. He’s got all the attributes he always had (pace, bounce, swing, reverse swing) and might now have learnt when to use those skills – but he’s tainted. He’s tarnished by his previous, premature stab at international cricket.

The very name ‘Sajid Mahmood’ is a kind of cricketing shorthand meaning ‘the wheels have come off during a one-day international’. It’s unfair.

The same applies to Liam Plunkett, while Steven Davies is currently being given a chance to build a bad name for himself as an England wicketkeeper.

What would have happened to Mitchell Johnson had he been English? Australian readers might want to be particularly hilarious at this point.

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