England v Bangladesh, 2nd npower Test, Old Trafford June 2, 2010

Shahzad hopeful of making Test debut

Cricinfo staff

Ajmal Shahzad could be in line to make his Test debut against Bangladesh at Old Trafford on Friday, following the foot injury to Tim Bresnan that ruled him out of the reckoning and created a fast-bowling vacancy in the side that won the first Test at Lord's by eight wickets on Monday.

Shahzad faces competition from Ryan Sidebottom, who was called into the squad following the announcement of Bresnan's stress fracture on Tuesday, but having toured Bangladesh without being given an opportunity to play in either of the Tests at Dhaka or Chittagong, Shahzad is hopeful that this time he'll get his chance to impress.

"I'm ready to go, if the nod is given to me. I'm as ready as I'll ever be," Shahzad told reporters at Old Trafford. "I hadn't been involved with the England circuit at all, apart from with the performance programme in South Africa, so it was a big hit for me [to be picked to go to Bangladesh last winter] - and I really enjoyed it out there.

"It was difficult conditions and made me wake up and think 'not all wickets are going to be bouncy, quick - and it's not always going to swing and seam'. You have to put some hard graft in and work at other areas of your game. I've learned a lot from being there and in the West Indies. I've got stronger shoulders from carrying drinks - but I've learned a lot 'up here'."

If he does get to play, Shahzad is aware that all the focus will be on his colleague, Steven Finn, who ripped through Bangladesh with nine wickets at Lord's, and seems sure to be promoted to take the new ball alongside James Anderson.

"Finny's come on the scene and performed superbly well," said Shahzad. "Obviously, with his extra height, he's got something to offer that Andy [Flower] likes. I've seen the boys progress, and what it takes at international level. So I know what I need to do. I think the only way I can really do that is out there on the pitch."

With the notable exception of Finn, Flower was critical of the performance of England's bowlers at Lord's, but seeing as many of the squad went into the match straight off the back of their successful World Twenty20 campaign in the Caribbean, a bit of five-day rustiness was inevitable.

"We have just come off the back of a one-day competition so it will always be difficult to adjust," said Shahzad. "There has not been a lot of red ball practice, but we saw Jimmy [Anderson] coming into a rhythm at the end of the first innings at Lord's and Finny [Steven Finn] burst on to the scene and did very well. Bresnan had a bit of trouble but when he comes back from his injury he will be better for the experience."

One of Shahzad's early challenges could well be to keep Tamim Iqbal under control, after he lit up Lord's with a thrilling 94-ball hundred during Bangladesh's second innings. Shahzad has previous in that regard, having bagged Tamim for a first-over duck during his ODI debut at Chittagong in March, but is under no illusions about the task that could await him.

"I like the way he plays, and I would prefer someone to play like that rather than block against me," he said. "It was nice to sit at home and watch him play. If I get the nod hopefully I can get him out early doors."

Tamim, for his part, credited his coach, Jamie Siddons, for giving him the licence and the confidence to bat in his own unfettered style. "When I started playing Test cricket I was in two minds whether to go slow or go fast - and originally I decided to go slow," he said.

"It was not working for me. My first 10 Tests were not good - I think I only got two fifties. The coaches said to play like I do in the ODIs and enjoy my batting - 'We will not say anything to you'. I know the way I bat sometimes looks fantastic, and sometimes looks ugly, but I am happy with the way I play my natural game."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jason on June 3, 2010, 8:28 GMT

    Boris, that is true, however Sidebottom is pretty much a spent force, and as you point out after a few injuries his performance has dropped, and so far this season hes not shown that his back to his best. In the end the selectors will make a decision based on who they think will be on the plane for Australia, and it would be nice for Shahzad to experience a full test atmosphere and give the selectors the chance to have a long look at him in test conditions. Shahzad has a healthier FC batting average than Sidebottom which would be a consideration.

  • muz on June 3, 2010, 7:51 GMT

    Perhaps this is the perfect time for England to take off their training wheels and go in with 5 bowlers. I am sure Mr Bell wouldn't mind missing a test match vs Bangladesh. I agree that Shahzad needs to be given a game ahead of the ashes and i agree that Sidebottom deserves his place in the team. Play them both and lets see some real captaincy and aggression from Straussy

  • Simon on June 3, 2010, 7:23 GMT

    Also, if they won't play Shahzad now, they should drop him and let him get back to the County game as they must obviously think he's not ready.

  • Simon on June 3, 2010, 7:18 GMT

    It's a toughie. Shahzad only has a first class average of 34.22 which hardly screams 'world beater (although obviously Andy Flower thinks he's seen something in him) and he's only a Med-Fast so he doesn't add any extra pace over Finn, Anderson, Broad, Onions and Bresnan.

    Then again, surely picking Sidebottom is a step backwards as he hasn't been anywhere near his peak a year and a half ago. He's dropped to the low-mid 80s in pace which, whilst being fine in England where there's good swing for him won't ruffle the Aussies feathers.

    Personally i'd like to see them play Harris, Woakes, Plunkett or Chambers.

  • Alastair on June 3, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    silly to pick the injury prone Side bottom - who will offer us little and from whom we will learn less - Aj has got to play with an eye on Pakistan and Australia where his (or someones) extra pace will be required. If Side bottom has an international future it is as a one day specialist - what we have learned, from watching him try (in vain)to condition himself to the extra effort required in international cricket, is that Duncan Fletcher was right. You need to get them young and take them away from the county comfort zone. Finn is not enough cover and to be proven. Broad and Anderson are inconsistent and Brennan and Onions are injured - Side bottom is unlikely to last a series. Harmison /Woakes / Mahmood /Khan or Plunkett may well get the call with one more 'crock' ... Its a long summer still to come. I wouldn't bet on who will be England's attack this winter - but I know one thing. Vacancies exist Good luck AJ.

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    GO GO GO shahzad.Best Luck

  • Amahl on June 3, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    No disrespect to Shahzad, but I just feel that Sidebottom deserves his opportunity. This has always been his forte, the longer form of the game and with his nagging line and length, decent pace and ability to swing the ball, the Bangladeshis will find him extremely difficult to handle. Add to that his experience in a relatively inexperienced bowling lineup. I am sure Shahzad will get his chance at some point but Ryan Sidebottom was, if we all remember, phenomenal a couple of seasons ago and his performances have only dropped due to injury. Now that he is fully fit and raring to go, I would be very keen to give him a berth. All the best to both Sidebottom and Shahzad. If Shahzad does play, hopefully he can bowl well.

  • Rod on June 3, 2010, 0:14 GMT

    I hope Shahzad gets to play. Most commentators seem to be engrossed with who should be our first XI this winter, but it's obvious with the continuing injuries, etc., let alone loss of form, that we need to think in terms of a squad--all of whom could play if necessary without a major let down in quality. Think how deep Australia have had to go into their fast bowling reserves over the past couple of years. Let's give Shahzad the experience and have a look at him rather than Sidebottom whose qualities and deficiencies are pretty well known.

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