Shahzad hopes for World Cup spot
Ajmal Shahzad is hopeful the England selectors will stick with him for the World Cup after he waited patiently for his chance on the tour of Australia. Shahzad didn't feature during the Ashes after being added to the squad, but played both Twenty20 internationals and the first ODI at the MCG.
Shahzad wasn't originally part of the Test party although flew out with them at the end of October to help with the preparations and impressed the management enough to stay on the trip. Against Australia A at Hobart he took 3 for 57 to help England to a 10-wicket victory and he even had an outside chance of playing in Adelaide, but Steven Finn's form meant he wasn't able to add to his one Test cap against Bangladesh.
Now Shahzad is waiting to find out whether he'll make the cut for the World Cup, having made an encouraging start to his one-day career with nine wickets at 22.44 from five matches. He produced a solid display in the first ODI, which Australia won by six wickets, taking 1 for 51 while England's other frontline quicks, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, were very expensive as Shane Watson hit a brilliant 161.
"Personally I thought I did OK," Shahzad said. "I wish I could have changed it a little bit more our way and got a few wickets in the middle period. I was happy with my all-round performance. I don't know what they are going to do in regards to the World Cup squad. I'd love to be in there and keep learning and keep progressing. Hopefully I can give the coaches and selectors other options. I guess we'll see in the next couple of days."
With James Anderson and Stuart Broad due to return to the set-up after being rested and injured respectively, they will form the first-choice pace attack alongside Tim Bresnan which will be followed by the spin of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy. It means Shahzad will fill a back-up role, but having been on tour for nearly three months he's used to biding his time although he admitted endless nets can become hard work.
"Personally, I've learned a lot from it," he said. "I've been sat out of the Ashes and not played, but I have observed and learned a lot from it which was the key thing for me. Hopefully I can learn and give some impetus into the ODIs now.
"There's only so much you can do in the nets," he added. "It's been frustrating and difficult just to bowl at batsmen in the nets. After the Hobart game [against Australia A] I felt I was a little bit rusty and there was a few things I wanted to work on. I feel as though I'm getting into a better rhythm now in regards to everything."
Andy Flower, the England team director, also likes cricketers who can contribute in all three formats and Shahzad believes he can fit that mould. "I give a lot of energy in the field. I've been working hard on my fielding and my all-round game. I haven't been paying the Test matches.
"With regards to the ball I can control the reverse swing in the sub-continent, that will be a key factor for us. Just keeping it tight and bowling at the death. I think I've shown what I can do opening the bowling and coming on at the end. Then also coming in late on and hitting a few balls out of the ground. My batting, my bowling and my fielding. I feel like I belong on the pitch now. Hopefully I can get a decent run and show what I have got to offer."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo