Paceman Steven Finn says it is great to see his former England team-mate Haseeb Hameed back in the runs – as long as he doesn’t make too many in Middlesex’s Specsavers County Championship match against Lancashire which starts at Lord’s on Thursday.
Hameed was saddled with the label of being Sir Alastair Cook’s natural successor after scoring 82 on Test debut during England’s 2016-17 tour of India, aged just 19, but has since been scarcely able to buy a run until hitting a double century last week against Loughborough MCCU.
Finn, a fellow tourist on that trip three winters ago, knows better than most about the fickle fortunes of a sporting career.
His own story of going from being England’s 90mph-plus man to barely being able to let go of the ball from a standing start following England’s Ashes tour of 2013 is well documented.
Unsurprisingly then, Finn empathises with the emotional journey endured by 22-year-old Hameed – though there will be little room for sentiment when he is steaming in to bowl at him from the Pavilion End at Lord’s.
“Yes, I can sympathise with where he has been the last couple of years,” he said.
“Everyone has periods in their career where they have ups and downs. I don’t think there is anyone in the history of cricket who has had a great time of it all the way through and it is great to see Haseeb back.
“He is immensely talented. Hopefully he can hold off on the runs against us, but then crack on and score as many as he wants the rest of the summer.”
While Finn has his radar honed in on Hameed and company, life won’t get any easier for Middlesex’s own batsmen.
The Lord’s tenants had to produce a rear-guard action over the final two days of their opening County Championship fixture up at Northamptonshire last week, after an all-too familiar first innings top-order collapse saw them follow on.
Their technique and resolve is sure to be sorely tested again by a Red Rose attack able to call on the services of Jimmy Anderson after the ‘Burnley Express’ was given dispensation to kick-start his Ashes summer by England.
Finn is in no doubt Anderson is the greatest exponent of pace bowling of his generation.
“Jimmy is certainly up there,” said Finn. “Wickets-wise he has the most international wickets ever for a fast bowler.
“I’ve bowled at the other end to him and faced him in the nets a lot and he is the best bowler I’ve ever played against or with, so he rates pretty highly.”
Lancashire arrive at the Grace Gates in a remarkably similar position to the one Middlesex found themselves in 12 months ago.
Unlucky to be relegated from Division One last term – they finished level on points with Nottinghamshire but with one less win – the men of Old Trafford now find themselves saddled with the tag of title favourites.
That same weight of expectation proved too much for the Seaxes in 2018 and while Finn recognises Lancashire’s credentials, he points to Middlesex’s travails at Wantage Road last week as evidence Division Two can throw you plenty of curve balls.
“Lancashire are a good team, but there are a few sides now who can say they have got a very strong squad and have the ability to win the league,” Finn added.
“But we know the second division can be unpredictable. As we have seen, Northamptonshire, who people don’t talk about that much, did immensely well against us. They probably out-batted and out-bowled us throughout the game.
“Nothing is a given in cricket unfortunately. I wish it was, but it’s not. We have to go into a game trying to produce what we know is our best and whatever happens after that happens.”