India v England, 1st Test, Rajkot November 8, 2016

Haseeb Hameed to debut for England as opener


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Quick Facts - Haseeb Hameed

Lancashire batsman Haseeb Hameed will become the youngest debutant to open for England in Test cricket, in the first match against India in Rajkot.

Hameed, aged 19 and 297 days by the time the game starts, will become England's fifth-youngest Test debutant, and Alastair Cook's tenth opening partner since the 2012.

Ben Duckett, who opened the batting in Bangladesh and made a sparky half-century in his final innings of the series, will move down to No. 4 to accommodate Hameed. Gary Ballance, who scored just 24 runs in four innings in Bangladesh, was dropped from the XI for Rajkot.

Hameed enjoyed a breakthrough season in the 2016 Championship campaign. Opening the batting for Lancashire, he scored almost 1200 runs at an average of 49.91. The four centuries he scored included two in a match against a strong Yorkshire attack. As a right-hander, he will also correct a slight imbalance in an England top order that, in Bangladesh, saw five left-handers in their top six.

While he was born in Bolton, Hameed has a strong affiliation with India and Gujarat in particular. His parents - who will be at the game - were born here and his brother was married here in recent days. He names Sachin Tendulkar, who he met as a seven-year-old, and Virat Kohli among his heroes and, in 2010, he travelled to Mumbai to learn to bat on the city's maidans that have been the breeding ground of many fine cricketers.

"Haseeb has impressed everyone so far on this trip," Cook said. "You wonder if a 19-year-old, coming on tour, will be overawed but he hasn't been at all. He has looked really good in the nets and the way he has gone about his business. It's obviously a very special day to pick someone so young.

"He is incredibly unflappable. He looks a very good player of spin. He picks length well and uses the crease well. Stuart Broad bowled at him last summer and was almost straight on the phone to me saying how impressed he was with this guy.

"He is one of those natural run-scorers. All through his age group, whatever team and whatever standard, he has scored runs. It's probably a year earlier than he would have thought. But to average 50-odd as an opener in Division One as a 19-year-old is an incredible feat. I was nowhere near the player he is at 19.

"Of course there will be some tough moments for him over the next few of playing Test cricket, but I think this guy can play."

While Cook admitted it was "not ideal" to move Duckett down the order after two Tests, he did not foresee any negative impact. "He's a pretty unflappable character," Cook said. "Historically he has played all his cricket in the middle order until the last year. He's comfortable batting anywhere."

Hameed's selection means no place for Jos Buttler, who has only played one first-class match since he was dropped a year ago, or Ballance, who has averaged only 19.90 in the six Tests since he was recalled in July and failed to reach 30 in his last seven innings.

"It was a tough decision," Cook said. "Jos has played some really good one-day cricket on this tour and his batting looks in really good shape in the nets. But he hasn't played that much first-class cricket. Gary hasn't scored the runs he would have liked."

Cook also played down talk about his imminent retirement as captain, after being quoted by the Cricketer magazine as saying: "I don't know how much longer I am going to carry on. It could be two months, it could be a year."

But talking ahead of the Test, Cook reiterated his oft-stated view that he will take the role "series by series".

"It's a mountain out of a mole hill," he said. "It's been blown out of proportion. Since the World Cup, I have been very open and we have taken it series by series. It could be two months, six months or two years."

The Rajkot game will represent the 55th time Cook has captained England at Test level, surpassing the previous record of 54 times by Michael Atherton.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tahir on November 9, 2016, 2:51 GMT

    A brave decision by England and that too against India in India. Wow. England had started experimentation with all rounders also against India and now have a whole brigade each of whom can be lethal on their day. Haseeb will have to adopt to Indian way of opening the bowling and that is always with Ashwin nowadays and seamers only for change.

  • Jose on November 9, 2016, 0:46 GMT

    @US_Indian on November 8, 2016, 18:02 GMT

    Latest addition to your list should be this spunky kid Pant, who is scattering the efforts of all bowlers, hither & thither, as if it is his daily routine! Possibly a good replacement for Dhoni, when the latter decides to hand his great big gloves and massive bat anytime now.

  • Jose on November 9, 2016, 0:41 GMT

    @ landl47 on November 8, 2016, 17:05 GMT

    I fully endorse your view, that:

    "... From a purely technical perspective, this looks a stronger England line-up, with the three most technically sound batsmen up front and the attackers starting at #4..."

    I sincerely hope Trevor Bayliss reads your comment and absorbs its contents & logic. Some of his publicly expressed demands sounded good - had they been from a short format coach! I wrote my doubts on those Bayliss' approach, as and when they were published in this forum.

  • Phil Davies on November 8, 2016, 23:55 GMT

    We need Cooky to captain for a long time yet. TBH - he's only really looked comfortable since Bayliss came in but he has now matured into a confident skipper. It would be a shame to throw it away too early.

  • Asker on November 8, 2016, 18:02 GMT

    This should serve as an eye opener for india's selection panel- they could drop ballance, butler just based on the performances and lack of consistency, and introduce a youngster based on talent and performance and they are not afraid to drop anyone how ever reputed he is, to them performance and results matter most, can india do such things a big no? just look at Mukund / Mithun / Irfan/ Pankaj/ Surya yadav/ shahbaz nadeem / parvez rasool/ shreyas iyer/ shreyas gopal and some of the U19 kids who are really performing well are being ignored and preferred Pandya getting a chance above everyone and here comes Ishant who walks straight in as if it is his birth right. wake up from the slumber and be realistic, rational and result oriented.

  • Sanjay on November 8, 2016, 17:14 GMT

    Well, England are spoilt for choice which is always a good sign altho the dropping of Ballance couldn't have come sooner. I don't think the selectors did Ballance too many favours when they initially recalled him against Pak despite not being in his best form. It appeared to a be gut call which hasn't worked out. There's also the fact that England fans find it really difficult to accept blokes from SA/Zim in particular, they may come to respect the tenacity of players such as Lamb, Trott but deep down the finger will be pointed at them sooner than someone who was brought up in England. It's going to be a long road back for Ballance now because it's only a matter of time before Buttler plays as a specialist batsman in the middle order, and I expect him to be a success there despite his FC record. There's also the possibility of even Bairstow playing just as a batter if Foakes breaks through. In such a case, it's curtains for not only Ballance but Vince too.

  • manjula on November 8, 2016, 17:07 GMT

    Come on ... best wishes ... Should only IND debut teenagers ?? If this is IND there won't be negative comments. He must have prove his place. Also, I think ENG do better than IND think.

  • John on November 8, 2016, 17:05 GMT

    Best of luck to him. From a purely technical perspective, this looks a stronger England line-up, with the three most technically sound batsmen up front and the attackers starting at #4. Unless the pitches are vastly different from what I expect them to be, I think all the England batsmen are going to struggle. India will probably find batting tricky, too, but not nearly as much.

    The toss, as usual, is going to be crucial. England won the toss in the first test against Bangladesh and won the game; lost it in the second test and lost the game. This could be a good game if England wins the toss and the wicket holds together for a while. However, I'm expecting an Indian win.

  • Jose on November 8, 2016, 15:44 GMT

    It is my Umeed (fervent hope & prayer).

    That Hameed should not be rushed into a war.

    On these so unfamiliar battlegrounds .

    Though he's damn good as an opener,

    He should be tried in England first.

    The scars he may get here at such a tender age may last long.

    So, it is my 'umeed', "Pl wait for a while for his debut"!

    Instead pick Butler for a lower middle order blast.

    And pick someone else as an opener.

    Ali has done it before (at least in county cricket)

    On India's not-so-fast pitches & facing India's pacers, he may do it well,

    Better than many other partners of Cook did it before.

  • Francis on November 8, 2016, 15:18 GMT

    I've watched Haseeb a lot at Old Trafford the last two seasons, and he combines Boycott-like defence with a calm demeanour and a full range of shots, all of which he will need in this series. Probably right of the selectors to save him until now, because batting against new ball spin freaked out all the batsmen.

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