X-factor still strong in fiery Amir

05 July 2016
Pakistan pace ace Mohammad Amir has sounded an ominous early warning // Getty Images

Pakistan pace ace Mohammad Amir has sounded an ominous early warning // Getty Images

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Amir warned to expect hostility, but if he carries on bowling like this it won't be long before he wins over the sceptical public

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

The reception for Mohammad Amir was polite and muted.

Yet this sleepy corner of the West Country was soon awoken from its slumber as the left-arm seamer, in his first professional game back in England following his conviction for spot fixing, produced an electrifying display of fast bowling.

If anybody thought his subsequent five-year ban from the International Cricket Council had seen Amir lose the X-factor that made him such an exceptional talent as a teenager then they were set straight on the second day of Pakistan’s tour match here against Somerset.'

Quick single: Amir-zing spell has England on notice

His return of 3-36 was impressive enough. Yet it did not tell the full story of a performance that will certainly have caught the attention of England’s players ahead of next week’s first Test at Lord’s.

That, of course, is where Amir, in a plan hatched by former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and also carried out by Mohammad Asif, bowled deliberate no balls to order during the 2010 Test against England. All three were subsequently found guilty of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.

Amir, then 18, was sentenced to six months in a young offenders’ institute, eventually serving three. He was also banned for five years by the ICC.

While he has returned to play limited-overs cricket for Pakistan, most recently in the World T20 in India, Amir’s story will come full circle when he makes his Test return at Lord’s on Thursday week.

Alastair Cook, England’s Test captain, has warned the 24-year-old to expect a hostile reception from crowds this northern summer. Yet if he carries on bowling like this it won’t be long before he wins over a sceptical public.

There was no irony lost on day two here when the first delivery Amir faced as a batsman on this tour – sent down by Somerset’s Josh Davey – was a no ball. Amir was then out for a duck when he edged the second ball he faced behind.

Quick single: Amir warned: expect hostile crowds in the UK

However, everyone had come to see Amir bowl and he didn’t disappoint as he first dismissed Marcus Trescothick with a beautiful outswinger and bowled Adam Hose and Peter Trego either side of lunch with magnificent inswingers.

Trescothick, a veteran of 76 Tests and still going strong as an opener for his native Somerset at the age of 40, said of Amir: "He bowled very well. He swung the ball really late, that’s the biggest thing we noticed. In my magnificent eight I thought it was pretty hard work, it was tricky. It was a good challenge.

"You get a lot of bowlers who swing it quite early but he was swinging it late and as it was coming down the pitch you were almost guessing whether it was an inswinger or whether it was one of the straight ones. Then it just sort of swings away. That’s the challenge he poses.

"On that performance, yes, he will cause problems for England. He got Adam Hose with a good inswinger round the wicket and Pete Trego got an absolute beauty. So three good deliveries got him three wickets and he bowled pretty well."

Amir only bowled 11 overs as Somerset were dismissed for just 128. Yet Trescothick, who opened England’s batting during the 2005 Ashes, believes his time away from the game has made him even sharper in terms of pace.

"That bit of extra pace is the thing," he said. "He hasn’t played international cricket for a number of years so there’s probably an extra bit of zip that he has that makes him hard work."

England have been warned.

Meg Lanning Steve Smith

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