Haseeb Hameed delivered a timely reminder of his talents to the England Test selectors with a century as Lancashire moved into a first-innings lead against Middlesex on day two at Lord’s.
The 22-year-old opener, who played in three Tests as a teenager, endured a dreadful season in 2018 – averaging below 10 while his side were relegated from the top flight of the County Championship.
But national selector Ed Smith was in attendance to watch Hameed hit a first-class century for the first time in over two-and-a-half years as the Red Rose began their bid for an immediate return to Division One.
Hameed only opened the Lancashire innings because Alex Davies had injured his thumb while keeping wicket on the first day but he made the most of the opportunity with a virtually chanceless knock of 117 from 196 balls.
A first-wicket century stand with Keaton Jennings was the platform for the visitors to take control of the game and they ended the day on 267 for four to open up a lead of two runs.
Here's Haseeb Hameed reaching his hundred with a six!pic.twitter.com/EIpNd13R6Q— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) April 12, 2019
Lancashire seamer Tom Bailey began the day by completing a five-wicket haul as the home side were bowled out for 265 after the last pair of Tim Murtagh (16*) and Toby Roland-Jones (35) had added 29 to earn a second batting bonus point.
Although Murtagh bowled a consistent line when Lancashire began their reply, the rest of the Middlesex seamers were unable to gain control as Hameed and Jennings progressed to 88 for nought at lunch.
Apart from a difficult caught and bowled opportunity that Steven Finn was unable to cling on to, Hameed offered no chances – but he and Jennings became bogged down as the scoring rate slowed significantly during the afternoon.
Jennings took 133 balls over his innings of 52 before he became the first to depart at 123 for one, chasing an outswinger from James Harris and nicking it behind.
With Davies unlikely to bat, Lancashire sent Brooke Guest in at three and he made a shaky start with a series of edges that fell just short or wide of the slip cordon.
Guest survived to make 17 but he was to be the first of two victims in quick succession for Murtagh (two for 23), missing a delivery that came back and took his leg stump.
Lancashire’s progress appeared to have been checked when Glenn Maxwell followed, playing on to Murtagh in his next over to leave them 152 for three.
However, Rob Jones (55*) kept Hameed company after tea while he advanced to his ton, reaching that landmark in style by hooking Roland-Jones into the grandstand for six.
It was Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan who eventually ended Hameed’s innings, diving to take a smart return catch off his own bowling. But Jones went on to pass his half-century and he and captain Dane Vilas (19*) had added 36 by the time bad light ended play.
England captain Eoin Morgan commended his Twenty20 side as “close to perfect” after they blitzed the West Indies for the second time in three days to end their tour with a 3-0 series sweep.
Forty-eight hours on from dismissing their hosts for 45 in St Kitts, Morgan’s men were at it again, taking all 10 wickets for 71 – England’s top two performances with the ball in the format.
The top order then made light work of their target, sprinting over the line with 57 deliveries unused to claim a record of their own, this time for quickest completed chase.
Morgan can be a demanding captain but cut a satisfied figure at the close, particularly given the absence of first-choice players Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.
“The guys played close to perfect, it’s a big win,” he said.
“I don’t think you can fault us for many things. Guys have stuck their hands up on numerous occasions and it’s really exciting to see.”
45 all out in the last match, 71 all out today.— Rajneesh Gupta (@rgcricket) March 10, 2019
Windies become the first team to be dismissed for less than 75 in the consecutive T20Is. #WIvENG
Despite rest and rotation, England have found a steady supply of match-winners, with standout performances from Sam Billings, Tom Curran and man-of-the-series Chris Jordan.
David Willey was the latest player to show his skills, setting up the concluding win with a decisive new-ball spell of 4-7 – second only to Jordan’s four for six in the previous game among England’s best 20-over figures.
“They are the kind of days you dream about in Twenty20 cricket,” said Willey.
“Very often it’s a batter’s game so to be a bowler and get some wickets, then to win in the fashion we did is brilliant.
“I’d like to think I was on for the five-for but if someone had offered me four for seven when I woke up this morning I’d have bitten their hand off. I’m happy with that.”
Willey was kicking his heels throughout the five-match one-day series, with questions beginning to be raised about his World Cup place. He was happy to get his chance, albeit in a different format, and feels happy with his game after wearing the shirt three times in week.
“Touring is difficult when you’re not playing and when you do get your opportunity there is a bit more pressure on for you to step up and contribute,” he explained.
“I always feel I play my best cricket when I’m playing regularly so it can present a challenge to hit your straps when you’re not playing regularly. So to come out and play as I have gives me a lot of confidence.”
All eyes now turn to this summer’s tournament, with competition for bowling places reaching fever pitch.
Jofra Archer becomes available in a week’s time and has been promised a chance to impress in clashes with Ireland and Pakistan, while Jordan’s recent showings have thrust him back into the conversation.
Morgan suggested Archer will not be the only player from outside the provisional World Cup 15 to get game time in the build-up, in a bid to prepare them should they be required at late notice.
“The guys who did perform certainly will be talked about in selection meetings,” he said. “Moving forward there is an opportunity to look at other guys outside of our mainstay players.
A dramatic finale in Guwahati saw England Women wrap up a 3-0 Twenty20 series victory over India on Saturday.
In a game the hosts should have won comfortably, England emerged victorious thanks to an incredible final over from Kate Cross who could have finished the match with a hat-trick.
The 27-year-old took two wickets in the final over as India, who only needed three runs from the last six balls to win, fell one short of their target of 120.
India captain Smriti Mandhana scored 58 off 39 balls, leaving her team needing just 18 runs from 18 balls at one stage, but they were unable to get over the line and lost for the seventh straight T20 game.
Opener Tammy Beaumont top-scored for England with 29 off 27 balls in a total of 119 for six, having been 51 without loss at one stage.
Cross’ heroics with the ball secured the win, with Anya Shrubsole, Linsey Smith and Laura Marsh also taking a wicket each.