The second round of the 2022 County Championship concluded on Sunday, with another strong showing from the Pakistan representatives. Here we take a look at how they got on.
As good as Hampshire looked in the first round against Somerset, so they looked ordinary in the second; an innings win followed by an innings defeat. Mohammad Abbas took six cheap wickets in that win; he took zero in this defeat. He was still very Abbas though, tidy as ever (economy rate of 2.16) and forever probing around those areas batters feel least comfortable with. There were chances, one edge falling short of slip – an Abbas leitmotif – and another that went through second slip’s hand, but no tangible reward.
If anyone of Pakistan’s vast contingent in county cricket needs a bit of a reset and a refresh, it is Hasan Ali. For most of 2021, he was second only to Shaheen Afridi as Pakistan’s best bowler. But since the T20 World Cup – and admittedly mostly in white-ball cricket – he has seemed out of sorts. An injury picked up in the PSL, allied to a range of flat pitches, meant he was quiet in the Tests against Australia and immediately questions began to surface about his position in the side. Hasan has always been a bowler of streaks: irresistible when he’s on a good one, ordinary when he’s on a bad one. Match figures of 5 for 94 in a 10-wicket thumping of Kent is a good sign for the county, and a better sign for his country. Most pleasing will be reports that his in-dipper was in good working order: he is a different bowler when he’s getting the ball to move about. The bonus is that he may come out of it having learnt something from the maestro himself, Jimmy Anderson. He’s keen to, not least the wobble-seam (a nice full circle that one, given Anderson picked it up watching Mohammad Asif in 2010).
Of all Pakistani hook-ups with county cricket, none is more intriguing than Haris Rauf at Yorkshire, and that’s not even considering the off-field significance of a Pakistani Muslim player at Headingley. Rauf is due to play six first-class games, which means that if he plays them all, he will have played more first-class games this season for Yorkshire than in his entire career before arriving here. And though he was part of Pakistan’s Test squad against Australia, this is really the first time he’s going to be seen as a long-form bowler. First impressions? It’s going to be a ride. He was quick through the game on a slow surface in Bristol – the quickest in the game, hitting James Bracey twice with bouncers. He was expensive too, going at over five an over in the first innings and 3.55 in the second. Three wickets in each innings played a part in a six-wicket win, but he was also box-office viewing. On the first day, as Rauf’s radar struggled against Gloucestershire’s left-handers, he also bowled one over in which there were two dropped catches off successive balls and two wickets off successive balls. A sign of his freshness in this format: he bowled 27 overs in the second innings, the most he has ever bowled in a first-class innings and only the second time he’s bowled more than 20.
Zafar Gohar‘s game began by getting stumped for a duck in the first innings, jumping out to Dom Bess, and ended by going at over six an over as Yorkshire chased 211 to win. In the middle, though, the least high-profile of Pakistan’s contingent did what he so often does: contribute. He was the most economical of Gloucestershire’s attack in the first innings, before partnering with Bracey in the second and putting on 104 for the sixth wicket. That helped Gloucestershire set Yorkshire a decent – but not, alas, impregnable – target.
Shan Masood is the leading first-class run-getter in England after two rounds of the County Championship: now there’s a thing. Masood added to an encouraging start at Derbyshire with the first double-hundred of his career against Sussex. It was against a weakened attack – Steven Finn apart, the rest of the frontline bowlers (two pacers and a left-arm spinner) had played 23 first-class games between them before this one, with a combined age of 57. But first-class runs are first-class runs and tellingly, for what it says about Masood’s recent form, they came at a good clip: at lunch, he was 74 off 88 and at close he was unbeaten on 201, still striking at over 74. He remains in Pakistan’s Test plans but the more runs he scores here, the more likely that he will, before the year is out, be back in Pakistan’s Test XI.
Serious question: is there a better cricketer in the world right now than Mohammad Rizwan? Probably, but not that many and not by much. Which is why Sussex will be one of the better-followed teams (outside of England) this season. In acquiring both Rizwan and Cheteshwar Pujara, they’ve pulled off somewhat of a coup. There’ll be plenty of focus on an Indian and Pakistani in the same side county side, a bit of a throwback to the 70s county circuit when Bishen Bedi and Mushtaq Mohammad turned out for Northants together. Rizwan was unspectacular on debut, 22 and four catches – Pujara, meanwhile, ground out a match-saving double-hundred – but it’s inconceivable that he won’t have greater impact as the season continues.