By Paul Edwards
If Junaid Khan bowls to Aaron Finch in Friday evening’s NatWest T20 Blast Roses game at Headingley, cricket’s capacity to present an almost gladiatorial duel within the context of a team game will be illustrated once again.
A sell-out crowd will be howling for blood, mostly of Lancastrian origin, as the batsman officially rated the world’s best in short-form cricket faces up to a fast bowler who, whatever the rankings say, is widely regarded as one of the most lethal in the 20-over game.
Both Junaid and Finch have provided glorious illustrations of their differing talents this season - the Australian opener when hammering a 55-ball 88 off the Lightning attack and Junaid by taking 4-12 as Lancashire successfully defended a modest 126 against Birmingham Bears.
That profitable spell equalled the county’s best figures in a Twenty20 game and you would find few more eloquent or perceptive advocates for Junaid’s diverse skills than his short-form skipper, Paul Horton.
“I think he’s world-class,” Horton told ecb.co.uk.
“It’s pretty obvious to most that he’s been brilliant since he burst on the scene, but when you do that, people take a look and they come back with an idea as to how they are going to operate against you. But I think he’s learned too.
“He has a really good understanding of the way he bowls. As everyone can see he obviously bowls one of the best yorkers you’ve seen and he can reverse-swing the ball if it does reverse. He has a good slower ball, a good bouncer and enough pace to unsettle people.
“He bowls at 85mph plus, I’d have thought, but his low trajectory and his low arm makes his action almost slingy at times. He bowls wonderful yorkers but his ability to repeat that skill at pace is fabulous.”
Horton’s glowing tribute is particularly impressive when you consider that he is talking about a 24-year-old cricketer who has only played 52 Twenty20 matches in what is still a developing career.
Yet his opinion is backed up by the very experienced Ashwell Prince, who has seen fast bowlers of the quality of Dale Steyn in their pomp.
“Junaid’s ability to get the ball in the block hole is sensational really,” enthused Prince.
“He can also bowl the bumper which doesn’t make it easy for the batsman, you can’t just go on the front foot expecting a yorker because he can get it through at head height too.”
That suggests the lucky folk with tickets for Friday’s evening’s Roses return match can look forward to some marvellous entertainment.
“We’ve got a world-class bowler and Yorkshire have a world-class batsman and there’ll be a lot of other world-class cricketers on show,” Horton added.
“The first game was a wonderful spectacle with two very competitive sides going at it hammer and tongs in front of a full house, and hopefully Friday night will be exactly the same.”