Clawing his way to the testing side

Shan Masood has blown hot and cold for Pakistan over the years in Test cricket, scoring 1378 runs from 25 games at 29.31. However, Masood is successfully establishing himself as a quality Test hitter scoring 713 runs over six innings and being the county’s top scorer in the current season so far.

Pakistan is always known for its range of quality bowling. Elite bowlers like Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younous and many others have played for them in the past. Some greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yunus Khan featured in their batting lineup, but the batting unit didn’t have many mainstays collectively. The team were also seen struggling in Test cricket at one point but appear to have improved recently.

The Pakistani Test team have improved their quality lately and the series against Australia is proof of that. They lost the Test series to Australia but fought well in the series. The team has quality pacemakers like Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali and Naseem Shah. The batting unit includes quality hitters like Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fawad Alam and a new Abdullah Shafique. Of all these quality players, Shan Masood has been one of the regular hitters on and off the team. Masood played his last test over a year ago. He was named in the squad for the series against Australia but warmed up the bench for the entire series. He hasn’t been able to cement his place in the squad due to several factors but his recent performance in the current County Championship Division 2 has been tremendous and selectors will take notice for sure.

A solid left-handed and technically sound fly-half, Masood earned his international call-up after impressing coaches with his junior and premier-class cricket exploits. He was first noticed by top class cricket selectors after scoring 54 runs and setting up a 154 run partnership for the opening wicket. He also played well in England in 2009, scoring 1,237 runs at an average of 103 for Stamford school, setting a school record. His breakthrough season on the National Tour was 2012-13 when he scored 543 points at 54.30. With his excellence in the domestic field, Masood made his Test debut against South Africa in 2013 and he was spectacular on his debut.

Masood played a hard and brave 75-point shot on his debut against an elite bowling attack, including Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Vernon Philander. From his impressive debut, he showed glimpses of his potential. Masood amassed 1378 points in 25 Test matches at 29.31 and four centuries. The team also gave him a chance in the ODIs, but his record of just 111 runs in five games kept him out. Also, the team got more consistent hitters after him and so his lack of runs kept him out.

Now Masood will have to compete with Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique to return as an opener for Pakistan. He will have a tough competition ahead but consistent performances can put him back in the national team. The reason behind his possibility of a return to the Test side as a permanent fly-half is his performance in the recent County Championship so far.

Masood is currently plying his trade for Derbyshire in the County Championship Division 2 and has been impressive so far. Derbyshire have played their first match against Middlesex and the right-hander has announced his arrival in fine form. He scored 91 runs on 152 balls in the first inning and hit 62 runs in the second. His performance in the first leg helped the team to a draw even after the opposition posted a 401 total. The second game was against Sussex and it was a complete Masood show. The batter showed his potential and hit a marathon 239 run. His innings put the team in a dominant position, but the opposition showed enough resistance to draw.

Game 3 of the tournament was the highlight for the hitter. He crushed 219 points against Leicestershire to script his first victory in the competition. He also became the first Pakistani striker to score consecutive centuries in the county championships. Thanks to their heroism, Derbyshire beat Leicestershire by one set and 68 runs. Derbyshire head coach Mickey Arthur also praised him after his knock against Leicestershire. “Shan was outstanding, of course. He led from the front and took a lot of batsmen with him,” Arthur said.

He continued his sublime form against Glamorgan scoring 60 runs in the first and 42 in the second set. His last shot was the only one where he was dismissed for scoring less than 50. Masood has amassed 713 runs in just six innings with a mind-boggling average of 118.83 and is the competition’s top scorer so far. Masood has been in fine form and he provides a solid base at the top of Derbyshire.

Only Masood’s record doesn’t make him a serious contender for the top spot in the national team, but his ability to play in such difficult English conditions is commendable. His strike rate is 70.94 while playing in England which is decent and also shows he can run the scoreboard if needed in bowling friendly conditions. It’s a very difficult task to score with such consistency even after being in and out of the Test squad regularly.

Masood is keen to don the whites again for Pakistan and shows it through his performances. Masood has made some changes to his technique and looks like an organized and compact hitter, especially against the point guards. Additionally, his background in the county could help him develop as a hitter while playing in different conditions.

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