Haseeb Hameed ended Day Four of the 1st Test against India unbeaten on 62    IANS
Haseeb Hameed ended Day Four of the 1st Test against India unbeaten on 62 IANS

Everyone knew of Haseeb Hameed when he was picked for England s tour of Bangladesh. We knew of his credentials in County Cricket and believed that he could replicate that in international cricket as well. Hameed scored 1,198 runs from 16 matches for Lancashire opening the innings. One thing that could have got in his way was his age. At 19, Hameed not just broke into the England team, but struck a sublime fifty on Day Four of the first Test against India to put his side in total command. With England s fluctuation in the opening slot over the years, Hameed could turn out to be England s long term plan in that spot. With Alex Hales not part of the tour, Hameed could very well establish himself alongside Alastair Cook for years to come. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot

Since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, Cook has had as many as nine opening partners, which included the likes of Moeen Ali and also Joe Root for a brief period of time. Young Ben Duckett was given a chance to open alongside Cook in Bangladesh, but barring a fifty in his final innings there, he did not offer much. Cook has scored close to 5,000 runs with Strauss opening the innings over a long period of time and picking an opener for the England captain, who could replicate the same performance was always going to be difficult. However, it was not impossible. Most of them have failed to make any sort of impact, while a few were drafted in the middle-order, having given them a different role. But with Hameed s growth in domestic circuit and his transformation into an international player is a good sign for England.

Playing in India is never going to be an easy task. Having played in familiar conditions in England, it is never going to be easy to adapt to turning pitches in India. While there was very little turn in England s first innings, their second innings was a completely different story. The likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra got a lot more purchase than they did in the first innings and troubled the batsmen as well. But Hameed and Cook stood tall and denied the bowlers any wickets. Hameed scored 31 in the first innings. There is nothing flashy about him, but he comes across as a gritty and patient cricketer. He gives the ball its due respect and plays his shots against deliveries those are in his slot. READ: IND vs ENG, 1st Test: Haseeb Hameed’s maiden fifty puts England in commanding position; lead by 163

A couple of England cricketers are no strangers to making Test debuts in India. One of these is Cook himself, who made his debut in Nagpur in 2006. Vice-captain Joe Root too made his debut at the same venue six years later in 2012. While Cook scored 60 and an unbeaten ton in his first two innings, Root scored 73 in his first and followed it up with an unbeaten 20. The matches ended up as draws on both occasions, but it was the birth of two future leaders of England cricket. This innings from Hameed too could turn prove out to be the beginning of a great international career ahead. Both Cook and Root were just 21 when they made their debuts, Hameed having done so well at just 19, it will not be wrong to put them on par with them at this stage.

Hales backed out of the Bangladesh tour due to security concerns and could perhaps rue the day he did that. Two young guns Duckett and Hameed have put their hands up and given England many more options to play with. There were calls for Hales axe as well. In his 11 Tests so far Hales has scored at little over 27 and a highest score of 94. You cannot be a good opener, if you fail to convert starts into big scores. Hales has gone past fifty on five occasions, but has never converted, hiring him and the team. For the last four years or so, England have looked for a steady partner for Cook. They have not found one yet, but their search could have come to an end with the emergence of Hameed a hardworking youngster who is capable of making huge scores. Hameed has a chance to get three figures on Day Five. It may not help England win the game, but it would mean the world to him and his family watching from the stands. His father could not hold back his tears when his son crossed his half-century. Imagine how he will feel once his son reaches the three-figure mark. READ: IND vs ENG 1st Test, Day 4: Highlights

More importantly, Hameed s performance in this match could cement his pace in at least the next couple of games. England play their next Test series in July next year against West Indies. Hence, Hameed s performance in this series will be all the more crucial. There is little doubt that he will have to repeat his heroics for Lancashire in the upcoming season as well, but a good show in India could mean a severe blow to Hales Test career unless he does something incredible in the domestic circuit.

In whatever we have seen little of Hales in Tests, he has not convinced anyone of him being cut out for Tests, despite having a good outing against Sri Lanka at home earlier this year. But England have given him a long run and Hales pulling out of the Bangladesh tour, could just turn out to be the best thing that has happened to England as Hameed has shown us glimpses of why he can be a long term bet. Once their opening conundrum is solved, England may want to look at players for the No. 4 slot.

With James Vince being dropped in Bangladesh, his replacement Gary Ballance did very little to justify his place in the side. England have demoted Duckett to the No. 4 position, which shows the sort of faith they have in the youngster. If Duckett does well in the first couple of matches, England could persist with him for the rest of the tour. Ballance s selection was baffling in itself as he did not have many runs for Yorkshire over the last couple of seasons and England were shown why it was the wrong call in Bangladesh. READ: The phenomenal duo of Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and best partnership averages for India

As far as the opening slot is concerned, Hameed could put an end to that debate once and forever.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry.com. He is a sports enthusiast and a keen observer of cricket, the contests, and its personalities. When not tracking cricket, he follows the world s soccer leagues and is somewhat partial towards Liverpool. His Twitter handle is @pramz)