The Lowdown - Sajid Mahmood May 11, 2006

Joining the pace pack

The Lowdown on Sajid Mahmood as he makes his Test debut against Sri Lanka at Lord's
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With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or as an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of Sajid Mahmood, England's new pace bowler.



Sajid Mahmood has moved quickly from Lancashire to England © Getty Images
Beaming England's leading allrounder is fairly certain to get you noticed, but that probably wasn't quite how Sajid Mahmood planned to announce his arrival back in 2003. During an early-season net session at Old Trafford he struck Andrew Flintoff on the shoulder, forcing him out of bowling duties for six weeks. But there was no long-term damage and now Mahmood is just beaming with pride as he makes his Test debut - with, ironically, Flintoff as his captain.

Mahmood was spotted in the very early days of his Lancashire career as someone with the potential to bowl with real pace - something that will always get Duncan Fletcher interested. At the end of the 2003 season, with just a handful of first-team appearances under his belt, Mahmood was included in that winter's Academy squad.

On the subsequent tour of India, where the England players were taught some harsh lessons, only three players really emerged with any credit. One was Simon Jones, continuing his rehab from that Brisbane injury, another was Kevin Pietersen who plundered the Indian spinners and the third was Mahmood. After the tour, Rod Marsh, a tough man to please, sent out coded messages of there being one bowler from that tour who would make the step up. He didn't mention names but it was clear that Mahmood had made the right impression.

During the 2004 season Mahmood was promoted to England's one-day squad for the Natwest Series with New Zealand and West Indies, but he spent most of the three-week tournament carrying the drinks and his form suffered. The season fizzled out, but the England selectors stuck by him and their invitation for another winter at the Academy made it clear he was part of their long-term plans.

His returns for Lancashire have continued to be sporadic - he has yet to take a Championship five-for - and he actually only played half a season in 2005, firstly due to injury and then because he wasn't able to force his way into a strong pace attack. However, for the third winter in succession he impressed on tour with the Academy - rebranded as England A - and was called up to India for the one-day series. Now he's part of the Test set-up and has the chance to repay the faith that has been shown in him over the last few years.

Timeline

August 2002
Championship debut against Hampshire at Old Trafford. Only bowls two overs in rain-affected match

September 2003
Selected for the England Academy squad

February 2004
Tours India with the Academy and takes 5 for 62 against East Zone

July 2004
Makes his one-day international against New Zealand, at Bristol, in the Natwest Series but concedes 56 runs off seven overs

October 2004
Again part of the Academy set-up and tours Sri Lanka during the winter

February 2006
Takes 12 wickets in the two-match A series against West Indies followed by another 12 scalps in the five-match one-day series

March 2006
Part of the England one-day squad in India and takes his first international wickets at Jamshedpur during England's only win of the series

May 2006
Withdrawn from the England A match against Sri Lanka, secures his best Championship figures against Kent, then is named in the squad for the first Test



Mahmood will bring some pace to the England attack in the absence of Steve Harmison © Getty Images
Current form
An impressive start with Lancashire has brought 11 Championship wickets at 18 from two matches, while his spells in one-day cricket have shown an improved accuracy.

What he says
"I'm not the sort to get nervous. I'm more excited but I think there'll be some nerves if I'm picked to play. Freddie was one of the first to say congratulations and it would be great to play in a side captained by him. He's already given me a few tips about how to stay calm and I'm sure he'll keep the advice coming.

What they say - Andrew Flintoff
"I've no fears with Saj. He played out in India in one-day internationals. They are big occasions, playing in front of 80,000 people. I've played with him at Lancashire and faced him in the nets. He's genuinely quick, he gets the ball down at 88-89 mph. I'm sure he's definitely someone who'll have a big future with England."

What you may not know
Mahmood is the cousin of British Olympic boxing champion Amir Khan, who is hoping to get to the Test. "I'll definitely try to watch the game in London if I can fit it around my training. If I can't then I'll certainly be glued to the telly with my mum and dad cheering him on."

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo