Club Cricket Conference

Sunday, 27th May 2018

Hameed might find tempo crucial part of Test batting

Personal View: Charles Randall

The rise of the Lancashire and England Under-19 opener Haseeb Hameed to the England party for the tour of Bangladesh after one season in first class cricket must be a concern, and here is why.  He has averaged an impressive 50.3 in the championship, but he does not yet score nearly fast enough.

Pitches in first class cricket tend to be dry, flat and friendly, and batsmen are hard to dislodge, so that there is little excuse, and rarely a requirement, to score slowly. Similarly in club cricket better pitches and bats have produced more runs more quickly compared with, say, the 1970s. Occupying the crease only goes so far.

The England selectors expressed excitement about Hameed's 1,411 runs at a high average for Lancashire, and those statistics are certainly laudable. But at a scoring rate of 38.8? That shouts aloud that he is not ready.

Hameed, of Farnworth Social Circle CC in the Bolton & District League, excelled at Bolton School, did well enough for England Under-19 in his peer group and will no doubt progress in his professional career as a star pupil of the Lancashire Academy.

Statistics show that a scoring rate in first class cricket overall drops a couple of points in Test cricket against better bowling.  Alastair Cook, for example, has a Test scoring rate of 47. His overall first class rate is 51, which is an extraordinary increase bearing in mind that more than half his innings have been for England. In other words his tempo in county cricket alone must presumably be about 56.

Commentators have likened Hameed's approach to Geoff Boycott's, perhaps forgetting that life is far easier at the crease these days than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Boycott was far from slow compared to his peers when he started Test cricket at the age of 23, though he settled for outright blocking later on to extend his career and ended up with a Test scoring rate of 38 - very similar to Mike Atherton, one of Hameed's predecessors at Old Trafford.

It is true that Atherton scored relatively slowly, perhaps because of the quality of attacks that included McGrath and Warne and a battery of top-rate West Indian fast bowlers, added to the burden of long-term captaincy. But Atherton stands as an exception, as his contemporary Graham Gooch cracked on at 49 and later core openers such as Andrew Strauss and Cook - all captains - more or less matched this tempo.

One would imagine that a batsman managing a rate of only 38 in county cricket, as Hameed does, will find Test match batting a mighty tough prospect until he stretches himself in domestic games. Take the example of Mark Ramprakash. His scoring rate in England's middle order was a mere 36, spread over 92 innings. Perhaps it was significant he took his time batting in county cricket.

It must have been no coincidence, for example, that Alec Stewart (Test rate 49) and Graham Thorpe (46) pushed themselves really hard for Surrey. Figures are not available for their overall first class scoring rate, but it would have been 50-plus. Ramprakash finished with 114 centuries, yet only two for England, whereas Stewart and Thorpe were far more successful at Test level.

Another comparison would be the prolific Australian opening partners Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. Australia ruled the world with aggressive batting, Hayden striking at 60 and Langer at 'only' 54.

While England's selectors have worries finding a partner for Cook, at this time Hameed might not be the answer, having made his name at Lancashire in a batting friendly environment. Remember, the Bishops Stortford CC middle-order batsman Chad Barrett scored 114 not out in classic style for Northamptonshire at Worcester recently, batting at No 10.

Another new opening prospect selected by England was Ben Duckett, the nimble-footed left-hander from Stony Stratford CC and Northamptonshire. At the age of 21 his career average stands at 44.3 and his scoring rate at 71. Yes, you read that correctly.

One excellent advance made by the ECB is the availability of daily fixed-camera county championship highlights on for each match, lasting about three or four minutes with professional voice-over. Now every cricket follower can glean a rough idea about the ability of players without attending a game.

As a footnote, here are the scores from the Test on a featherbed at Old Trafford in 1964: Australia 656-8 dec (255.5 overs; Bobby Simpson 311 in 743 balls), England 611 (293.1 overs; Ken Barrington 256 in 631 balls, Geoff Boycott 58 in 190 balls).

Have a look at county highlights
hameed breaks records in roses draw
keogh and duckett imperious for northants

...and try this
twenty-one wickets fall on extraordinary day
England tour itinerary:
30 September: England team arrive
4 October: One-day game vs Bangladesh Cricket Board XI (Fatullah)
7 October: 1st ODI D/N (Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka)
9 October: 2nd ODI D/N (Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka)
12 October: 3rd ODI D/N (Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong)
14-15 October: Two-day warm-up match (MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong)
20-24 October: 1st Test (Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong)
28 October-1 November: 2nd Test (Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka)
2 November: England depart Bangladesh