Mahmood can emerge as a star of the summer

'Lions tour helped me grow as a player' - Mahmood (2:09)

Lancashire's Saqib Mahmood believes training with the Lions is at such a high level that it will put him in good stead for the upcoming county season. (2:09)

Rather like the villagers on the Mexican border in the film classic, The Magnificent Seven, the England selectors are looking for help. And similar to the farmers eventually assisted by Chris (Yul Brynner) and his friends, they do not care if the fastest gun comes from the west or any other point of the compass. This could be an intriguing season for George Garton, Tom Helm and Saqib Mahmood.

It is still early April and scarcely a ball has been bowled but if composure and a cool readiness for the battle are criteria for selection, the 21-year-old Mahmood is well placed. As the Lancashire players posed in their new kit and the faux Northern video artistes wolfed their bacon barms at Media Day, Mahmood spoke with impressive clarity and purpose about where his cricket might take him.

"I find it exciting that the selectors are looking for guys with pace and hopefully, I come into that sort of bracket," he said. "You can have pace but you have to have the skill. I feel I have those things and it's now a question of showing it for Lancashire. I'm moving the ball both ways at pace, which is what gets you to the highest level."

People who do not know Mahmood might accuse him of coltish arrogance. He has, after all, taken only 19 first-class wickets and 44 in all cricket. But there is a quiet reflectiveness about his speech which suggests mature self-assessment has taken place.

He knows that dismissing Kumar Sangakkara in the final first-class match of the maestro's career got him noticed and he understands very well that his being able to bowl at 90mph has attracted attention. He is ready for the ballyhoo should he be fast-tracked from the Lions to the full England team.

What is more, he knows that for some young pace bowlers the glare of publicity has often been followed by a blaze of obscurity. He has spent the winter preparing for what might come along this summer.

"I attended a Lions training camp in Brisbane and Perth before Christmas and it was great to be out there and to put white-ball performances in," he said. "You have to try different things with the red Kookaburra ball but with my pace I can make things happen on a flat wicket. I've got a unique action and I do get the ball to reverse when it's doing that.

"Then I was picked for both of the tours after Christmas. I'd never been to the West Indies before and I learned a lot out there. Now, if I do get picked for England to go to the West Indies, I know exactly what to expect and I don't have to be there for a couple of weeks getting used to the conditions.

Mahmood followed up with nine wickets at 14.88 in three matches in the North v South games with several members of the England hierarchy, including Andrew Strauss, looking on.

"I really wanted to put performances in with the selectors watching," Mahmood said. "I was a little nervous last year but this year I adapted my game to bowling in the middle and at the end. That's where I've struggled in the past but I really showed what I could do with my yorkers and my death skills."

But if Mahmood does win further international recognition this season some close observers of Lancashire cricket may recall not his Lions performances overseas but the many occasions when Glen Chapple took the young bowler out to the middle during the lunch intervals of games in which he was not playing.

Rather like a geometrician on a field-trip, Chapple would take out a series of poles which he placed precisely at certain points in Mahmood's run-up and then on the pitch. These attempts to get his apprentice to run in straight and to hit specific lines are now bearing fruit; they can be added to the minute changes in wrist position and the finger pressure on the seam which are gradually turning Mahmood from an apprentice into a young craftsman.

"Saqib is very disciplined and pays real attention to advice and help," said Chapple. "But he is encouraged to formulate his own ideas and thoughts. He bowls quick, he can reverse the old ball and is working on his ability to move the new ball both ways and, like any young bowler, he is working to improve his consistency without taking away the extra pace he has. On the TV gun, he will bowl 90mph, some days more. But there might be more to come from him. I think he will have a blend of everything when he is the finished product. He will be a skilful bowler as well as being fast."

Indeed, Chapple's poles may soon occupy as potent a place in Lancastrian folklore as the Farnworth Social Circle nets from which Haseeb and Ismail Hameed brushed the snow a very few winters ago. It was that work ethic which helped win Hameed his first Test cap and it is not absurd to think that he, Mahmood and Liam Livingstone may all be in the England side before the end of the season.

"It's a big summer for me but I don't just want to play, I want to be an influential player," said Mahmood. "When I was coming back from a niggle, I was clocked at 88mph and that was bowling into a mitt. If you can employ skills at 90mph it puts you on a different level.

"Test cricket is the biggest challenge. You're not doing it for one hour or three, you're doing it for five days. It's a mental and physical challenge and I get a real buzz off winning a four-day game."