Shahzad buoyed by bowling performances

Monday 25th April 2022
Photography by: Nigel Parker/Format94 Photography

Ajmal Shahzad says Derbyshire’s first win of the season is a testament to the effort of bowling attack, and highlighted how the increased scoring with the bat is benefitting the entire team. 

While Shan Masood’s second double hundred in-a-row will naturally steal the headlines, Derbyshire’s bowlers also shone in the innings victory over Leicestershire at The Uptonsteel County Ground, claiming 20 wickets in an LV= County Championship game for the first time in 2022.

Suranga Lakmal took four wickets in the match, while Sam Conners matched that in the first innings alone, before claiming a fifth on Day Three, taking his tally to 15 for the season.

Youngster Nick Potts continued to impress in just his second first-class match, with all-rounders Anuj Dal, Alex Thomson and Mattie McKiernan all taking crucial wickets during the game, with the latter also scoring a century.

While English pitches in April traditionally offer a little more for seam bowlers, 2022 has seen wickets harder to come by, something Assistant Coach (Bowling Lead), Shahzad, says emphasises the quality of the performance against Leicestershire.

“I think what we’ve seen, in both the Sussex and Leicestershire games, is that it’s very difficult to take 20 wickets, and that’s what you need to win it, so I’m incredibly proud of the lads for the effort they’ve put in,” he said.

“Yes, it was a spinning wicket to an extent, but it was very difficult from a seam perspective, there wasn’t much in it when the ball got older and softer, so we have to give a special mention to Suranga Lakmal for the effort he put it, particularly in his final spell, that’s probably one of the quickest spells he’s bowled since he’s been here.

“Sam Conners set the tone with his bowling, which is something we spoke about over the winter, he’s bowled among the most overs in the division, and most of the bowlers ahead of him are spinners, so he’s taken that load on his shoulders and he’s getting his rewards for that.

“I can’t not mention Nick Potts as well, he’s stepped up as a young pro. He might not have got this opportunity, were it not for injuries, but he has a knack of taking important wickets. Mattie McKiernan, Anuj Dal and Alex Thomson have also done their roles so well, massive credit to the boys.”

Lakmal has claimed six dismissals since arriving at Derbyshire, often sharing the new ball with Conners, who has taken more than double that amount already.

The legendary Sri Lankan quick has routinely offered stability with the ball, without getting reward, but he’s also proved to be a leader and guiding influence for the younger seamers in the squad.

While his effort on the field has not gone unnoticed by the coaching team, Shahzad says Lakmal’s impact goes beyond just the wickets column, although he expects that number to rise soon.

“Suranga is a genuinely good bloke. We know his numbers and the calibre of player we’ve got,” Shahzad added.

“But the fact he’s talking to Nick Potts, even in limited English, at the top of his mark and trying to help Pottsy through his spell, that tells you the kind of person he is.

“He’s putting in so much effort in every spell, he’s probably not taken the wickets he wanted to yet, but every ball he’s putting every bit of effort he’s got into it for the team. Suranga wants to do himself, and us, proud and we see that.

“There was a round of applause in the dressing room for the effort he’s putting in, and for the good guys, it will pay off, and I’m sure a five-wicket haul is just around the corner. I keep telling him that things are slightly different this year, the wickets are flatter, but its a healthy challenge and he’s learning in his first spell in county cricket, every game he’s getting better.”

With the bat, Shan Masood is currently the leading run-scorer in the entire LV= County Championship on 611, almost 150 more than any other player, while Wayne Madsen and Mattie McKiernan also have centuries to their name already.

Last season, Derbyshire picked up just 18 batting bonus points in the whole campaign, with an average first innings score of just 218, which often left the bowlers with very few runs to defend.

This season, the side have already claimed 11 batting points, as well as eight bowling points, to sit in second place in Division Two after three games.

Shahzad praised the remarkable form of Masood, and said the increased volume of runs scored has given the whole team a boost, especially the bowling attack.

“The biggest game changer for me is the runs, last year we averaged around the 200 mark, it’s very difficult to bowl at a target like that,” he added.

“Everyone has benefitted from Shan’s runs, he’s breaking records every game, but you also see Wayne Madsen and players lower down the order benefitting from it, because it eases the pressure.

“The rate at which he scores is phenomenal, with the volume of runs and the way he scores them, for me, he’s one of the best in the world at this moment in time, everyone benefits from that, including our bowlers.”

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