Haseeb Hameed is raring to go after a month out of the limelight working on his game.
Hameed has not been part of Lancashire’s ongoing NatWest T20 Blast campaign, with the silver lining of being able to play some second-team and league cricket.
It wasn’t an easy first half of the summer for the England opener, who will return to first-team action in Sunday’s Specsavers County Championship clash with Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
The 20-year-old posted two fifties in his first eight career one-day matches in April and May, but he has not yet topped 47 in 15 first-class innings for the Red Rose or England Lions.
Since his last Championship appearance against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in late June, however, he has scored a second-team century along with spending time in the middle for Liverpool Competition side Formby.
Things are definitely looking up for the Boltonian, who said: “It’s been quite a difficult season for me so far. But I’ve had these three to four weeks away from first-team cricket, and I’m quite keen to put the first half of the season to one side now.
“It’s a season of two halves. What’s happened has happened, and it’s important to look forward now. We’ve had a couple of second-team fixtures against Warwickshire and the MCC Young Cricketers, and I’ve also played for Formby.
“It’s been nice to spend some time in the middle and play against some decent bowlers. Any kind of match practice is beneficial. You hear a lot of people talk about ‘it can only take one ball for a batsman to feel back in nick’.
“Hopefully I can look forward to the next six games, not dwell too much on earlier in the season and take confidence from last year. After the first six games of last year was when I really started putting my stamp on things. I was able to do that well.”
It’s been quite a difficult season for me so far. But I’m quite keen to put the first half of the season to one side now. It’s important to look forward
Hameed knows more England Test honours will come as long as he does things right, which means concentrating on Lancashire for now. And he and his team-mates have a Championship title to aim for.
They head to Hampshire - the first of six remaining four-day games - second in Division One and 29 points behind leaders Essex with them still to play at Emirates Old Trafford early next month.
“Essex are in pole position, but a lot can happen in the next couple of months,” said Hameed. “We have been doing really well. The acquisitions we made over the winter have really helped.
“Macca (Ryan McLaren), Dane (Vilas) and Shiv (Chanderpaul) have added that extra bit of experience, which we probably lacked a bit last year. In most cases, someone has put their hand up and either got a score or a few poles.
"All in all, it’s been a really good first half of the season. It’s important to take each game as it comes and continue to apply the pressure on them (Essex).”
Lancashire have won two of their last three Championship fixtures, including beating Middlesex at Southport and then Hampshire at Old Trafford, a game which Hameed missed for Lions duty.
He added: “That Middlesex game was great for us. They’re reigning champions, and we were able to put in a convincing performance. That gave us a lot of confidence. To then back it up against Hampshire was massive. To get back-to-back wins in this division isn’t easy.
“I missed the Hampshire game, but when I went back and joined them for the Warwickshire game, the lads were in great spirits. If we can keep this momentum up, we’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, Lancashire face back-to-back NatWest Blast away games against Northamptonshire and Leicestershire on Thursday and Friday. They currently have nine points from nine games and sit just outside the North Group's top four.