Haseeb Hameed eased his way towards 50 in the final session of the fourth day against India. His defensive yet uncomplicated style allowed him to negotiate the spinning ball against Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s number one bowler. He also saw off the threat of Ravindra Jadeja and the leg spin of Amit Mishra. Although the quality of bowling was high as the Indian bowlers looked to take advantage of home conditions, Hameed rarely looked troubled.
Aged only 19, Hameed became only the third youngest batsman to score a half century on his debut. When India appealed optimistically for an LBW in the 28th over when Hameed was on 48, he remained calm. India chose to review the decision even though it was clear that the on-field umpire’s call of Not Out was the right one. The ball turned shaply off the surface but was shown to be missing off stump by a comfortable margin. If the review was intended to be a tactical one to unnerve the young England opener, it did not work. It took just one more over before Hameed found the off-side boundary behind square to bring up his maiden test fifty off the bowling of Amit Mishra.
When his moment of celebration came after he scored fifty he would have been forgiven for leaping around the crease to celebrate. However, Hameed remained understated, he acknowledged his family in the crowd, among whom sat his father who has been influential in his cricketing upbringing. Perhaps this is the most encouraging sign yet; from his understated celebration it was palpable that Hameed believed his innings was only just begun. More poignantly perhaps is that this innings took place at the Rajkot stadium, in the Gujarat district of India where his parents grew up. His family later moved to Lancashire where Haseeb Hameed would go on to debut for Lancashire County Cricket Club. In 2015, he made a notable contribution of 91 in his first season playing for Lancashire’s first team against Glamorgan. In many ways this was a homecoming and it seemed fitting that Hameed should both debut and score his first half century on what is arguably his family’s home ground.
Tomorrow is the fifth day of this test match and if England are to have any chance of winning the match they will have to extend their lead of 163 quickly in the morning session. If he scores a century in the process it would be richly deserved after his excellence with the bat today. Hameed, like Cook, is used to playing in a patient manner waiting for the bad ball to tuck away for runs in contrast to some of the more aggressive, boundary seeking approaches of England’s middle order. First though, he must help England accrue runs quickly tomorrow morning if England are to have any chance of winning this test match. England supporters will be hoping that the England openers find a way to pick off India’s spin options throughout the morning session tomorrow.
It will be of great interest to see how this opening partnership materialises, not just tomorrow but for years to come. From his very first test match, the signs for England are positive. Aged just nineteen, Hameed has the potential to be an England player for many years to come. I, for one, hope this is the first chapter in a long and prosperous international career.
End of the test: Hameed fell for 82 after he tried to up the tempo of his innings but looked disappointed to have lost his wicket short of a century. If one thing is not in doubt it is that England should look forward to the next test with optimism having solved the mystery of who Cook should partner at the top of the order. If, and it is a big if, England can get the balance right between their batting and bowling attacks, the next test at the ACA-VDCA stadium could provide them with a good opportunity to take a lead in the series.