With his 122 from 246 balls for the County XI last week, Haseeb Hameed became the first English batter to hit a century against India this summer and the 24-year-old will be hoping for a chance to score another one over the next few months.
The Nottinghamshire player’s inclusion in what is a near-full strength squad for the first two Tests against Virat Kohli’s side is a milestone moment in his second rise but a return to the XI would be even bigger as well as an affirmation of his hard work and determination after a difficult few years.
Hameed’s Test debut as a 19-year-old in 2016 was so impressive that you would’ve been hard-pressed to find anyone to believe you that nearly five years later, he would’ve played just three times for England.
Teenagers are not supposed to adapt to the challenges of Test cricket so quickly, particularly not openers on a tour of India (who were world number ones at the time), but he looked to have something, with the poise and composure he showed drawing significant praise from bona fide cricket-writing royalty.
I've got to say – and do in Sunday Telegraph – that Haseeb Hameed's debut is the most promising by an England batsmen I've seen in 40 years
— Scyld Berry (@scyldberry) November 12, 2016
But the proceeding years did not bring the flood of runs and success in an England shirt his debut suggested it would.
A finger injury later in the series forced him out of the side and began a difficult few years for Hameed, who failed to rediscover the sparking County Championship form he’d shown in 2016 and drifted further and further away from the Three Lions setup.
It was a difficult period for the young man, with the 2018 season, which saw his batting average drop into single figures and criticism aimed at him by some at Lancashire, proving particularly tough.
In the end, a fresh start seems to have proved a catalyst for the turnaround in his fortunes. The Bolton-born batter had spent his whole career at Lancashire but was released by the county in 2019 and headed down to Trent Bridge after signing a deal with Nottinghamshire.
The change of scenery appeared to work wonders for Hameed, who had a bounceback season in the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy and finished with 272 runs at an average of 38.86 from his seven innings. His second rise had begun, bringing with it some glorious locks.
For all the talk of the importance of his move away from Old Trafford, this is a rise built on the right-handers’ own hard work, grit, and determination – all attributes that came to the fore when he battled to two centuries in a County Championship Group 1 game against Worcestershire back in April. Hameed scored 225 runs in the game, facing 635 balls, and spending 824 minutes at the crease.
By the end of the first 10 rounds of this year’s competition, his form had helped Notts to the top of the Group 1 table, with the opener making 642 runs at an average of 43.73.
In doing so, he forced himself back onto England’s radar – the rotation strategy and Ben Foakes’ unfortunate accident in the build-up to the New Zealand series meant he was called up into the squad.
Hameed didn’t feature but when he got his chance against international opposition a month or so later he would make it count.
Picked as part of a County XI to face India ahead of the five-match Test series that gets underway in August, the 24-year-old made a statement that Chris Silverwood seemingly found impossible to ignore.
Against a bowling attack that included Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Ravi Jadeja among others, he hit a 246-ball 122 that accounted for more than half of his side’s first innings runs and seemed to convince Silverwood he was ready for the real thing.
— Durham Cricket (@DurhamCricket) July 21, 2021
When England’s 17-strong squad for the first two Tests against India was announced a few days later, Hameed was included in what, given the players available, is a near-full strength squad.
The Notts batter marked his selection in style by ticking off another milestone – his first List A century. Hameed’s 103 from 92 balls helped his side claim a comprehensive victory in a Royal London Cup match against Warwickshire and illustrated the confidence he’s playing with right now.
That could well be his last competitive innings before the start of the series, with England due to train at Loughborough today before the squad come together at the weekend ahead of the first Test at Trent Bridge next Wednesday.
Hameed may not get his chance in that game, he may not be handed his fourth Test cap at all this summer or add to his 219 Test runs but that this second rise has put him in in contention to do so is worth celebrating.