January 17, 1997, Bolton, Lancashire
Right hand bat
Lancashire had not produced an England opening batsman since Michael Atherton played his last Test in 2001, but Haseeb Hameed ended that run when he made his Test debut against India in Rajkot in November 2016 at the age of 19. Such an accolade had long been predicted for the Bolton-born Hameed, who was tipped for great things from an early age. Even before he had struck a ball in Test cricket, he was dubbed "Baby Boycott" by his England colleagues, testament to a disciplined and unflappable style which identified him as a bit of a throwback.
Hameed's Test debut was an impressive affair. He made 31 and 82 in a methodical manner that invited hopes that, at the tenth time of asking, he could become the opening partner for Alastair Cook that England had sought since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. His maiden Test 50 brought tears in the stand from his father Ismail, whose obsessive coaching since childhood had helped to hone a player of considerable worth. It was an appropriate place for his Test debut: although he was a born-and-bred Lancastrian, his roots could be traced back to Gujurat and his brother, Numan, had got married in the State a few days earlier.
Hameed was justifiably regarded as one of the outstanding young batsmen in the country after setting records in his first full season of Championship cricket in 2016. He became the youngest batsman to score 1000 runs for Lancashire - eclipsing Atherton - the fifth-youngest to score 1000 in a season for the county and the first to score a hundred in each innings of the Roses match. "Hameed is one of the best young players I've seen in a long time," was the verdict of the opposing captain, Yorkshire's Andrew Gale.
Having developed a reputation for prolific scoring with England U-19s, Hameed blossomed late in the 2015 season when he made an outstanding 91 in only his third Championship match, batting for all but three overs of the final day against Surrey at Old Trafford, leading Ashley Giles, Lancashire's director of cricket, to compare him to Jonathan Trott.
Attempts to integrate Hameed into 50-over cricket in 2017, sounded like an opportunity for him to expand his range, but they coincided with a dispiriting season. Hameed's approach floundered as he made only three half-centuries in the Championship, averaging less than 30 and he missed out on an England place in the Ashes party despite obvious vacancies at the top of the order. 2017 becamer a season of learning and August was open him before he returned to first principles and ground out 77 in five hours against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
Assumptions that 2018 would bring a recovery proved spectacularly wide of the mark as 17 innings brought 165 runs at only 9.71. Lancashire director of cricket Paul Allott said Hameed's deteriorating performances were "a complete and utter mystery" and termed him "a dilemma", a batsman who got more opportunities than his form warranted, but who left Allott still insisting: "I've not seen a more talented young opening batsman in my 40-odd years in the game." The weight of expectation - excessive expectation perhaps - was resting heavily
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