Is Shan Masood Scoring His Way Back Into Pakistan Contention?

Shan Masood in action for Derbyshire CCC.

England has not been a happy hunting ground for Shan Masood when representing Pakistan. He has scored only 250 runs in total across nine innings in England, with 156 of those coming in one superb knock when Pakistan last toured the country. In his other eight innings, he has failed to record a score of note, being vulnerable either to nicking off or getting out lbw. But, having fallen out of Pakistan contention, Masood elected to spend this summer representing Derbyshire in the County Championship.

So far, it is a decision that has paid off handsomely for the opener. He made a solid start against Middlesex. Batting on what is an invariably difficult wicket at Lords, particularly this early in the year, he made 91 in his first innings and 62 in the second innings, though his contributions were not enough to force a result. But he raised the bar with a magnificent double-century against Sussex, anchoring his side’s batting effort as they finished on 505-8d.

That was again not enough to secure a win for Derbyshire. Despite having bowled Sussex out for 174 in their first innings, their visitors regrouped in the second dig at the County Ground. Captain Tom Haines and India stalwart Cheteshwar Pujara both passed 200 as Sussex comfortably batted out a draw. Masood, however, was undeterred by the frustration of seeing his efforts go unrewarded once again. Rather, he continued his excellent personal form in Derbyshire’s third match of the season.

That pitted them against Leicestershire side featuring some fine bowlers, including South Africa’s Wiaan Mulder, former-Proteas Beuran Hendricks and the vastly experienced Colin Ackermann. Masood, however, put them to the sword. He scored 219 in just 268 balls before he was eventually bowled by Callum Parkinson. The damage had been done by that stage, however, with Derbyshire going on to post a score of 531 all out.

With Leicestershire having mustered just 213 in their first innings, that left them badly up against it. Derbyshire were made to work for their victory, with Parkinson, in particular, providing some stubborn lower-order resistance, but with Louis Kimber the only Leicestershire batter to pass 50 and wickets falling at regular intervals, the result was never really in doubt. In the end, Parkinson fell for 49 with Derbyshire winning by an innings and 68 runs.

That was enough to lift them to second place in Division Two of the County Championship. One suspects, however, that Masood may have loftier ambitions than just helping Derbyshire to win promotion. If he can score enough runs in the coming weeks, it will surely help his cause significantly as he tries to win back his place in the Pakistan side. That will be easier said than done, with Pakistan boasting some fine openers, but there is surely a route back into the side for Masood.

Abdullah Shafique has looked sufficiently assured that it is hard to see him losing his place anytime soon, but there does not look to be a great deal between Imam-ul-Haq and Masood. The former does have the advantage of youth, but he has also developed something of a reputation of a fair-weather player. He is excellent when he wants to be, and conditions suit, but he has yet to prove that he can occupy the crease for long periods against hostile bowling in overseas conditions.

If Masood can continue to score heavily in the County Championship, he will go some way to showing that he can do just that. Of course, he will likely need to excel in domestic cricket back in Pakistan as well and hope that Imam-ul-Haq doesn’t continue to play as well as he did against Australia (albeit on very flat pitches). But where Masood looked a long way from getting back into international contention a few short months ago, he is surely now at least back in the conversation.

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