As Joe Root takes the plaudits, Haseeb Hameed begins to reap what he sowed

Haseeb Hameed rocks back and cuts
August 26, 2021

There wasn't any sangria in the park or feeding animals in the zoo, but this was, pretty much, England's perfect day. By the end you really could have been forgiven for thinking they were someone else, someone good.

It goes without saying that this has given England a fantastic opportunity to level the series. Yes, the pitch looks full of runs at present. And yes, England's bowlers will no doubt have to work far harder in India's second innings.

But this has given England an opportunity beyond that. Not only should England's batters be able to take great confidence from this performance - the top four all reached 50 for the first time since the 2013 Dunedin Test - but in keeping India in the field for 129 overs, they've earned the chance to strike a blow that could be significant later in the series.

The Tests come pretty thick and fast these days, after all. And long before the end of the day, Mohammad Shami - who bowled better than his figures suggest - had been on and off the pitch for treatment, Jasprit Bumrah had padding on his knee and Ravi Jadeja was limping. Ishant Sharma, meanwhile, has looked a shadow of the fast bowler who came into this match with 311 Test wickets. There were moments, such as when England took singles to him at mid-on and mid-off, when his lack of mobility was almost alarming. Really, if you saw him on a bus, you would offer him your seat.

The point? England have an opportunity to break a bowling attack. Or at least put so many miles in their legs their viability is compromised for the days ahead. England have been on the wrong end of such tactics many times. Now is the time to be ruthless. Many will say England should declare overnight - and it's true, there's not much point sending out James Anderson to face them on the third day - but you can guarantee India's bowlers will not relish the prospect of warming-up and pulling on the bowling boots once more.

You suspect that most of those present at Headingley on Thursday went home purring in pleasure at the innings they witnessed from Joe Root. For the second day in succession, this old ground had seen an England great produce some of his greatest work. He made his sixth century of the year - already equal to the England record shared by Denis Compton (1947) and Michael Vaughan (2002) - and his third of the series look easy. There were many beautiful strokes - not least a fierce sweep, a gorgeous clip off his legs and a fine reverse-sweep - but one back-foot punch through cover was a thing of such perfection that you could almost imagine a sunset taking a photo of it.

But we know Anderson is an incredible bowler and that Root is enjoying a hot summer. What, perhaps, is more encouraging for England in the long-term is the performance of Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed.

Malan's second-highest Test score, in his first Test innings in more than three years, was a nicely judged effort which served to demonstrate both his tighter defensive technique - he left with expert judgement - and his range of strokes. A couple of his cover drives would have pleased David Gower. There isn't higher praise. There's no reason to think Malan cannot kick-on from this.

The entire innings, though, was set up by the opening partnership. And it was telling that it was England's highest opening stand (135) since Hameed had his first run in the side in November 2016. It lasted 50 overs, drew the sting from the attack and put England ahead in the game.

Hameed, in truth, was not as fluent on the second day. He added only eight to his overnight score and went 28 balls without scoring immediately before his dismissal. He still made 68, though. He still looked the part. Don't worry too much about him not scoring any runs in the V; Malan only made one in the off-side V; Root only made seven there. This hasn't, to date, been a pitch for driving. Just ask the Indian top-order.

Peter Moores knew the exact moment Hameed was ready for a return to international cricket. Moores, the Nottinghamshire coach who signed Hameed at the end of 2019, had spent the previous evening, midway through the strange summer of 2020, working with Root in the nets at Trent Bridge. England were about to reconvene for the lockdown Tests against West Indies and Root had come to work with Moores to find some form. The next morning, Hameed turned up for a bat.

"We were in the exact same net," Moores tells Cricday now. "And when there are just two of you there and you're throwing with the dog-stick, you know how much you're putting on the ball. So, you get a really clear picture of the way someone is playing.

"And he just batted beautifully. He had rediscovered his rhythm. I was using Joe - who is clearly one of the best players in the world as a benchmark - and I just thought, 'Has is looking very, very good'."

The next few weeks didn't produce a mountain of runs. But they did produce some. And perhaps as important as the three half-centuries in seven innings and an average of 38.85 was the return of a smile to his face. Freed from what had clearly been an increasingly unhappy relationship at Lancashire, he rediscovered the joy of the game.

"There weren't a million people trying to sign him when he came here," Moores recalls. "And yes, he needed repairing. There was some technical work to do, but mostly he needed rebuilding as a person.

"He was in a tough place. He had experienced an extreme version of what many young players go through: he had enjoyed early success and then started to struggle.

"But I knew him from my time as coach at Lancashire. He was just coming through the system then and I knew he was a great kid. Almost as soon as he walked through the gates, it was a though we'd found a soul-mate. All he wanted to do was learn and talk and get better. As a coach, that really is the dream.

"I think he felt released here. And first he started to trust his game again, and then he's just blossomed.

"A little while into the season, a committee man from Notts said to me 'he fields with joy' and that's exactly right. Whether he's at short-leg or cover, he does it with a smile on his face. He's brought great energy to our team. It's been lovely to watch."

So, what was the technical work?

"Like a few young players, he had started to take an off-stump guard," Moores explains. "You can understand the logic: they think they're lining up the stumps. But actually it draws you into playing at balls you shouldn't. You don't really want to be defending balls outside off stump. You want to either be leaving them or attacking them. There's no benefit in defending them.

"Now he takes middle-stump. His trigger movements are smaller and he's opening up more scoring opportunities."

Hameed's defence can be a delight. At his best, he really does play the ball right under his nose with bat and pad so tight together you suspect it could keep out the rain. But it was the more aggressive strokes he played on the first day which really pleased Moores.

"It was nice to see him play some shots," he says. "That's the way he's moved his game. There was a period, a couple of years ago, when he looked as if he was just trying to survive. He wasn't thinking about scoring runs. He was battling rather than batting.

"He says he knows when he's playing well as he has soft hands and can cushion the ball. It's a lovely quality. It means you can edge the ball and still not be out. It's a quality that Kane Williamson has. But Hameed can play pace and spin well. He sees the ball early. I think he'll be fine in Australia. His game is designed to play pace."

It's no coincidence that Moores has been involved in Hameed's rehabilitation. He has played a similar role in many careers going back to Mushtaq Ahmed at Sussex. So it's probably not surprising that it was Moores he turned to after his failure - a first-ball failure, at that - in his comeback innings at Lord's.

"I did speak to him, yes," Moores says. "He was fine. Maybe if he hadn't scored that century against India in a warm-up game a few weeks earlier he might have been a bit more worried, but he was ok. I just gave him verification, really. I reminded him he was a top player and that it was important to control yourself in those moments. I think he just didn't watch the ball in that innings."

And were there any concerns about getting bogged down on day two?

"Not really," Moores says. "Batting is often tougher in the morning at Leeds and I thought he looked comfortable doing the job he did. He put a lot of overs in the legs of those bowlers. And all the bouncers they bowled to him will have taken something out of them for later in the match or later in the series."

There's not much doubt that Root will take the plaudits for this innings. And quite right, too. But it felt like a significant innings from Hameed, too. After several years of hard work, he's starting to reap what he sowed.

Disclaimer: This news is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Cricday. Source Link