Mahmood builds on success
Sajid Mahmood hopes his double strike against Australia last weekend is a sign of things to come this winter.
Lancashire fast bowler Mahmood turned in one of the few positive performances in the six-wicket ICC Champions Trophy defeat, his emphatic dismissals of Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting providing brief hope of getting back into the contest.
His chances of winning an Ashes cap in Brisbane next month will perhaps depend on whether coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Andrew Flintoff opt for his speed or James Anderson’s ability to swing the new ball.
Just one place appears up for grabs among England’s pace attack and Mahmood feels he is in good shape to take advantage should he get the nod.
“Obviously it is a totally different game to Test matches but if I get to bowl at those players again I will know I have done it before,” said Mahmood. “It’s a buzz getting any top-class batsman out and to get Gilchrist and Ponting, who are at the top of their games at the moment, was a real confidence booster.
“There is a lot of competition with Liam Plunkett coming in now and Jimmy Anderson recovering from injury, so I will have to keep doing what I am doing, trying to improve, and then it is up to the selectors.
“You can't presume you are going to be in the side. You need to keep putting the performances in and that is what I will be trying to do.”
Mahmood’s ability to reverse swing the old ball is reminiscent of Simon Jones, whose 18 wickets were integral to England’s 2-1 win over Australia last summer.
It was with the new ball, however, that Mahmood spectacularly uprooted Gilchrist’s off stump in Jaipur - and more significantly from around the wicket, the tactic England employed in 2005.
“We did get a lot of success with it last summer and obviously in this game, so it seems to be working pretty well,” said Mahmood. “We will continue to do that.
“Simon obviously did a pretty good job last year against the Aussies and if I get my chance and do the same as he did I will be very happy.
“Having played on wickets here that are pretty dead, it will be good to go out there and play on a quick, bouncy deck for a change.”
Mahmood has been working on his control during the three weeks in India under the tutelage of bowling coach Kevin Shine.
He showed the ability to produce wicket-taking deliveries from nothing in his Test debut against Sri Lanka at Lord’s when he claimed his first three in the space of nine balls.
However, he was inconsistent during the early part of the summer and he was removed from the firing line at the end of the Sri Lanka campaign, but it did not hold him back and he sent down some impressive spells in both Test and one-day action against Pakistan.
“All cricketers are going to go through ups and downs in their careers and the down bit for me was in the one-day series against Sri Lanka,” Mahmood said.
“I’ve always had the confidence and known I’ve got the ability to do it. Playing at this level you have to belief in your own ability and if you give up you are not going to be playing international cricket; you have to keep believing you can do it.
“I have not played too much first-class cricket and I have the chance to learn on the international stage. I have worked hard on the nets and there are signs of improvement.”
Before he gets another go at Ponting and co, Mahmood will encounter Brian Lara’s West Indies this Saturday in England’s final Group A contest.
“When I was a kid I watched him on TV and to have a bowl at him will be good for me,” Mahmood reflected. “It is always exciting to be up against the best players in the world.”
Defeats to India and Australia mean England could be heading home for a few days this Sunday, before flying to Australia on November 3.
For Mahmood, a devout Muslim, it will be a chance to catch up with family, including cousin Amir Khan, the Olympic silver medallist boxer, having missed out on the religious festival of Eid.
“It is a big part of our life, it is a massive celebration, all the family gets together, so I quite miss it in that sense but there will be a lot more Eids to come, so I will spend time with the family then,” Mahmood said.