Owais Alam Shah
October 22, 1978, Karachi, Sind, Pakistan
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
Isleworth & Syon School
After a see-saw career threatened to usher in early oblivion, Owais Shah finally got a chance at redemption in March 2006, making his Test debut against India in the final match at Mumbai. Following Michael Vaughan's return home due to injury early in the tour, Shah was drafted in as a replacement and made a composed and vital 88 in a memorable victory. A stylish and classical batsman who seemed to have the world at his feet as a teenager, he was compared in ability to the young Mark Ramprakash. Shah made his first-class debut in 1996, and at the end of the promising summer, Wisden praised his "abundant promise". His county cap followed, but back-to-back seasons with averages in the mid 20s ended with him being dropped by Middlesex in 2000.
He bounced back in 2001 in fine form, and was drafted into England's one-day side in the NatWest Series where he looked at ease, especially when making 62 against Pakistan at Lord's. Even though he toured as part of England's one-day squad to Zimbabwe and New Zealand that winter, his chances were limited. He was overlooked in 2002, but again played a few one-dayers the following winter in the ICC Knock-out Trophy and in the VB Series, but he found it almost impossible to forge a place in the side. Another solid season followed, but others edged ahead of him in the pecking order, and there was talk that his fielding was not helping his cause. His international ambitions suffered a further blow when he was relieved of the vice-captaincy at Middlesex in June 2004 after a string of bad results. However, a feast of runs in 2005 (1728 runs at a healthy average of 66.46) led to his inclusion in the England A tour of the Caribbean in 2006, and ultimately his Test debut. Further opportunities were thin on the ground, however. He had to wait 18 months for his second Test - another one-off appearance, this time at Lord's against West Indies where he failed twice - but a series of eyecatching performances followed in the one-day series, as England rebuilt after another disappointing World Cup campaign. Despite the continued failings of England's top 6, he was but a spectator and drinks carrier for the Test tours of Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Good county form and half-centuries in the home ODIs against New Zealand ensured he travelled to India at the end of 2008, and he finally got his opportunity in the Caribbean the following spring, following the selectors' temporary loss of patience with Ian Bell. An anxious Shah failed to cement his position, however, with his uncertain running-between-the-wickets proving his downfall, and he was overlooked for the subsequent home summer as Ravi Bopara leapt into the No. 3 position.
Though he remained a key figure in the one-day set-up, he was surprisingly axed for the tour of South Africa in 2009-10, despite a memorable 98 from 89 balls in the Champions Trophy that preceded it. As England settled on a formula that delivered both Twenty20 and one-day success it appeared as though Shah's international career was over and he was dealt a further blow when he was unceremoniously released by Middlesex at the end of the 2010 season and signed for Essex, although his debut was delayed by the IPL. Decent returns in 2011 and 2012 saw him retained by Essex on a further one-year deal but Shah was an increasingly itinerant cricketer, taking in stints in Australia's Big Bash and the Bangladesh Premier League as he moved towards a career as a T20 specialist. That prophecy was fulfilled at the end of the 2013 season, when he announced his retirement from first-class cricket.
Will Luke and ESPNcricinfo staff
Batting & Fielding