England v India Test Series: Can an in-form Hameed tip the balance toward England?

Published on: Jul 22, 2021

On Wednesday 9 November 2016, Haseeb Hameed stepped out to bat at the Khandheri Cricket Stadium in Rajkot. It was a day of firsts: the first time this venue had hosted a Test match, and the first time that Hameed had represented England at this level.

Pressure was certainly on Hameed’s shoulders. Not only because discussions and debate had rumbled on since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012 over who was the best batter to partner Alastair Cook at the top of the order, but also because in taking guard in Rajkot, Hameed became only the second teenager since 1949 to make his Test debut for England.

That summer, Hameed had torn up the County Championship, notching 1,198 runs at 49.91. That made him the youngest batsman to score 1,000 runs for Lancashire. The total included two centuries in one match against Yorkshire which also made him the youngest ever player to make two tons in a first-class game in England.

England fans could perhaps be forgiven, then, for their excitement in watching Hameed pick up 31 in the first innings at Rajkot, before an impressive knock of 82 in 180-run partnership with Cook in the second helped England secure a draw in the first Test of the series. This young batsman has no ‘obvious flaws’, has ‘enormous potential’, and ‘looks to be far and away the best’ of Cook’s partners since Strauss’ retirement, said Jonathan Agnew at the time.

After playing in the next two Tests (picking up another half-century in the third Test), Hameed was ruled out of the fourth due to injury and was replaced by Keaton Jennings. After that, all seemed to fall apart. Hameed struggled in the County Championship in 2017 and again in 2018, where he managed just 165 runs from 17 innings at 9.71. That pushed him a long way away from the Test squad, despite England still struggling to find consistency at the top of the order.

Now, five years after that debut in Rajkot, a resurgent Hameed has forced his way back into contention following a string of impressive performances for Nottinghamshire. Runs have flowed in the County Championship again: Hameed averages 45.85 with 642 runs from nine matches this season including two tons and four half-centuries. He was in the squad for the recent series against New Zealand and has been called up again for the first two Tests against India.

This time, he may be in contention for a spot in the XI with England once again experiencing familiar problems with the opening pair. All the top online bookies featured on mybettingsites.com have England as slight favourites to edge the first Test, and that would look like good value if Hameed can reproduce his county form and deliver the type of performance that saw him hit a 246-ball 112 against the touring India side for a County Select XI in a recent warm up game.