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Cricket news - Haseeb Hameed, and a feel-good comeback

Hameed scored a fine 117

He hooked it for six. Probably a top edge: they usually are off Toby Roland-Jones given the bounce he gets. But definitely a hook.

It's very a onomatopoeic shot conjuring an image of flailing arms, contorted backs and the throw back of the head and shutting of the eyes in a moment of self-preservation just moments after you decide, "ooooo this is short, I should probably get onto the back foot and oh fu..." It's gloriously cricket: in control one second, slave to fortune the next.

Cavallier, cowboy-esque behaviour, the hook. Even if you don't get caught on the hook, you've done wrong. Especially against the red ball, what are you hooking for? Get your hands over the ball, check those wrists and take the single on offer through square leg. This is exactly what they want you to do.

But when you hook for six - top-edge or middled - well you've just survived your go on Russian Roulette and come out with blueberry muffins.

What a way to go to a hundred for Haseeb Hameed. A double against students last week, a Championship one today against a Middlesex attack of Toby Roland-Jones, Tim Murtagh, Steven Finn and James Harris - those first there with a combined Test bowling average 28.73. Harris wouldn't look out of place in international whites either.

There's a few ways to spin this one. Hameed's registered a hundred in his first competitive innings of the summer. But the real grab is that it's his first in the Championship since August 2016, *before* his England call-up, which feels a lifetime ago. That stint endeared him to many and not since Arrested Development has an entity been able to maintain such a strong fanbase despite such poor recent output.

An eye-opening article on the Wisden Cricket website featured seemingly unsympathetic quotes from Lancashire director of cricket Paul Allott about Hameed's plight. The batsman had averaged 26 in the 2017 season, still nabbed a gig with the England Lions and then a grim 9.44 in 2018. Yet, his name was being thrown about to open for England despite losing his off-stump in a jumble of footwork and mind. Allott, for all his faults, did seem to be trying to quell the hype, which by now had consumed Hameed.

His teammates had seen it close-hand. Throughout it all, he was still a superstar in the nets. Still the hardest to get out, still the dreamiest into a cover drive. But out in the middle, he was a wreck. And to be fair to those in the Lancashire dressing room, they rally around Hameed.

Not in the "looking after the youngster" way, though it's a familiar trope with Hameed and you wonder if the facial hair, more unkempt locks and black bandana are his way of ageing himself. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old was coming into the summer out of sync, out of form and, at the end of September, out of contract.

The reasons for Hameed's dour trot have been subject to much rumour. Some say in trying to be a more handy white-ball batsman, he lost red-ball values. Others say he believed the hype and let things slide as many-a-precious youngster will. The louder noises were that his father was heaping too much pressure on him.

It's another familiar trope, the pushy Asian father. Being Asian in English cricket can be a blessing: you're regularly talked up as a target market, "cricket's in their veins" and all that. And yet when most break into the sport, there's always a whiff that being from that very same target family may be a hindrance. You see, you can have too much cricket in your veins. Receiving throw downs as a kid in the living room of his family home in Bolton made great copy when Hameed burst onto the scene. Now though - well, bit pushy, right?

Of course, there is some truth to that pressure, as there are to the other reasons highlighted above. Cricket or not, Asian parents do their utmost and hammer a sense of worth and an unrivalled work ethic into their children because of the graft it took to get to these shores and knowing the fundamental truth that the quickest way to be accepted into a native culture is to be valuable to them. Be a doctor. Be an engineer. Be a Test match opener.

But when you go to the middle, you leave all those factors at the gate. When Hameed moved across to notch his first run of the season with a punch into square leg, he didn't do so because he's now a white ball Charlie. When he hit the first runs off Murtagh with a perfectly placed and executed drive through cover, his ego had nothing to do with it.

And when, after a barrage of words and short balls from Steven Finn, Roland-Jones decided to try and lay one on him in the nervous nineties, Hameed hooked uncontrolled and gloriously, with no regard for how much his father, Ismail, might have lamented such a wild shot.

Hameed was eventually caught and bowled by Dawid Malan on 117. Many watching in person - including national selector Ed Smith - and many watching online - including England selector James Taylor - were warmed on what has been a cold yet enthralling start fo the English summer.

The next question: is he back? Well definitely in some form. But while this is a feel-good story, the harsh humbugging of professional sport is here to shake it off. As above, this is only his first hundred in almost three years. And in that time, shinier, younger things have emerged.

The Surrey pair Sam Curran and Ollie Pope are now Test cricketers, while Will Jacks is a handful of right decisions away from being international class very soon. Ryan Patel, another off the Oval production line, scored his maiden hundred today, too. Zak Crawley of Kent is also going to be a superstar and it would be very surprising if Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke, both now at Trent Bridge, do not finish the year with England appearances. Success for Hameed this season will be a stackful for Lancashire and a new contract at the end of it.

The world has changed since 2016, quite spectacularly in some cases. Thankfully, if the leaves, high elbow, spindly shoulders and embarrassed smile when he removed his helmet to celebrate three figures are anything to go by, Hameed has not.

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