Cricket: Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood called up for England’s Test and IT20

Date published: 25 September 2019

Former Matthew Moss High School student Saqib Mahmood has received his maiden international call-up for England's winter tour to New Zealand in October and November.

The Lancashire bowler, 22, is included in both Test and IT20 squads for the tour.

Mahmood, who used to play for Thornham Cricket Club, has taken 21 wickets in the 2019 Specsavers County Championship Division Two this season as part of Lancashire's title-winning side and eight Vitality Blast wickets this season, including a memorable three-wicket performance against Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley.

Mr Hinchliffe, Head of Performance at Matthew Moss High School, said: "Saqib always had a keen interest for sport and especially cricket. He was a dedicated sportsman, who constantly strived for the highest of standards on the cricket field and off it academically.

"It’s been a pleasure to follow his career and see him establish himself as a top professional."

The five-match IT20 series in New Zealand starts on 1 November and the two-match Test series starts on 21 November.

Those who have known Saqib throughout his time at Thornham have reminisced about the bowler.

The current All Stars lead for Thornham, Chris McGrath, said: “Saqib is so humble and has remained true to his roots. He has been willing to give up time on Friday nights to come spend some time with the club’s All Stars initiative, when no doubt he could have easily had better things to be doing.

Patrick McMahon, Saqib's coach at under 15s, said: “He played a friendly against Greenfield in 2011 for our Second XI and went straight into the first team after that game. He was instrumental in our Under 15 Cup triumph, bowling quick even then [in 2009].

“Above all, he was always courteous and polite, always grateful. I gave him a few lifts home after games and he always said thanks.”

Former first XI captain, Steve Grey added: “I first met Saqib as a 10-year-old, playing with the under 13s on a Sunday morning. He came along when his uncles, Shakir and Saif, joined the club. He was quiet and unassuming, but you knew he was different even then, with the physique of a 14-year-old at 10, tall and thickset for his age. 

“On the pitch, it was his pace as a bowler that showed he had a future ahead of him. Saq was put forward for trials to Rochdale district early on and was successful. It soon became apparent that he had serious talent, and with his height and pace, he was soon on the radar of the Lancashire coaches. I remember taking Saqib and my son, Liam, to trials at Clitheroe, and soon after this, Saqib was selected for Lancashire representative age group cricket.

“I remember our then-President, Dr Tony Crook, purchasing him all the playing and training kit required for Lancashire. As a club, Thornham then really took note, and, under my watchful eye, Saqib was soon playing first team cricket. The potential was clearly there for all to see, and then at 16, Saqib was advised to move to a better standard of cricket which is when he made the move to nearby Middleton.

“I have always said that he would go far and one day play for England.”

Ian Heywood, former chairman and current vice chairman, said: “Both the current chairman, Andrew, and I have had the pleasure of playing cricket with Saqib. We remember an under 15s game away when he bowled at half pace and still took a ‘5 for’, terrifying the opposition junior batsmen.

“When we as a club upgraded our facilities, Saqib sent us two signed shirts to hang in the new building. A few years later, we built a new clubhouse to add to our new changing rooms and community room. Saqib went one step further this time and gave us the honour of coming down to the club personally to officially open the new clubhouse for us.

Andrew Micklethwaite, current chairman, added: “One game we went to watch him for Lancashire, and he texted after the game. I don’t think he will mind me quoting – he knew we were there because ‘I recognised your mum’s voice, after my first ball went for 4, she shouted “come on Saqeeeeb”, and I was like, “I know that voice”’.

“That game was actually this year, so for him to remember mum’s voice so vividly is quite amazing. “My mum, for her part says that Saqib was always very polite and well-mannered when she did the tuck shop for the juniors all those years ago.

“I’m still in contact with him now and am so pleased with the news. A couple of our members will be in Australia over the next few months, so they are hoping to get out to New Zealand and support him if he gets some game time. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us at Thornham CC, when we say we are amazingly proud of his achievements so far and hope that he can continue this upwards trajectory that he is on.”

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