They say there are many ways to skin a cat. It’s a phrase that is very much applicable to a game of cricket.
Particularly so in limited-overs formats. Case in point is Lancashire and England opener Haseeb Hameed. The 20-year-old enjoyed incredible success in his first full season of county cricket last year – so much so he became an England Test player at the end of it.
But Hameed’s style was said to be a throwback, with his ability to be watchful, to block the ball with great strength and to blunt an opposition attack likened to players of a bygone age. The nickname ‘Baby Boycott’ was thrown his way due to the comparisons to Geoffrey Boycott.
That reputation therefore means he was deemed unsuitable for one-day competitions, where firepower and quick scoring is often the order of the day. Hameed wasn’t selected for any white-ball cricket for Lancashire last season, and admitted himself that it’s 18-months since he played a period of one-day cricket at any level.
But new Head Coach Glen Chapple has given him a chance to show what he can do in the Royal London One-Day Cup. On his List A debut against Leicestershire he showed his worth against the white ball.
It wasn’t the kind of batting display people have come to expect, even demand, from one-day cricket in 2017. There were no scoops, no reverse sweeps, no wild slogs to cow corner.
But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a mightily impressive and thoroughly valuable innings. He showed glimpses of perfect timing, with an array of cover drives and a couple of lovely flicks through the on side.
And his innings wasn’t slow by any means. His half-century came from just 56 balls and he guided Lancashire to a lovely start to their innings. He shared a 50 partnership with Liam Livingstone – surely a glimpse into England’s future.
He looked set for a critic-answering century having progressed with total ease to 88, but fell to his 101st delivery as Lewis Hill took a superb leg-side catch off James Sykes.
His dismissal and a couple of other scalps for Leicestershire had the Lightning wobbling somewhat. When Dane Vilas fell for an impressively made 39, Lancashire were 244-6 with 7.4 overs remaining.
And then came the aforementioned diversity. Jordan Clark produced an innings in near total contrast to Hameed’s – but one that was no less impressive and no less important.
His unbeaten 47 from 30 balls included three fours and three massive sixes. He peppered the short boundary and launched an enormous blow from a Sykes full toss which sent the gathered hospitality crowd on The Point at Old Trafford diving for cover.
It was an innings that featured scoops, reverse paddles and a few agricultural heaves. Different to Hameed for sure, but every inch as crucial.
Lancashire, thanks to other valuable contributions from Alex Davies, Livingstone and Vilas finished with a strong total of 314-8 from their 50 overs.
It wasn’t looking quite so strong when openers Mark Pettini and Cameron Delport shared a century stand, bringing Leicestershire’s hundred up off just 103 balls.
A breakthrough was badly needed for the hosts and captain Livingstone delivered it. First the England Lions star, who has only recently emerged as a genuine bowling option, trapped Pettini for a 43-ball 51 before Neil Dexter skied a catch to Stephen Parry two balls later.
Livingstone was proving there was nothing he can’t do. Star batsman, now accomplished off-spin bowler and he showed his magnificence in the field with a sensational catch running back to dismiss Delport off James Anderson.
He had made 62 and Leicestershire were right in the mix. Even more so when Mark Cosgrove put on an 89 run stand with Ned Eckersley.
This was a game that was fast developing into a thrilling contest. There was a brief rain shower and Anderson struck when play resumed, Eckersley perishing, before Clark trapped the new man Lewis Hill.
Cosgrove was the key wicket, or so it seemed, and when he feathered behind off Clark for 67 Lancashire looked to have the momentum. The Foxes needed 63 from 50 balls, with four wickets remaining.
But some loose Lancashire deliveries allowed Tom Wells and Rob Sayer to clear the fence and keep their side in touch with the rate. Losing Sayer didn’t halt their momentum, as 13 runs came from Anderson’s penultimate over to put the Foxes in control.
They clinched the win with four balls to spare. Wells finished with 32 from 27 and had played a superb hand in seeing his side home.
It was a game that showcased the positives of 50-over cricket, with the twists and turns right until the very end making for an intriguing contest.