Opener ex­or­cised his demons with re­lent­less de­sire to im­prove

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tim Wig­more

If you have been an opener in Test cricket in re­cent years, your worst night­mare has been open­ing against Stuart Broad and James An­der­son in Eng­land. Eng­land in re­cent sum­mers has been the place where Test av­er­ages wither like flow­ers in the sun.

Since 2016, over­seas Test open­ers av­er­age 24 here – the low­est of any coun­try in the world bar South Africa. The mul­ti­far­i­ous chal­lenges

Eng­land brings have over­whelmed play­ers with far more Test pedi­gree than Shan Ma­sood. But few have been ex­posed quite so bru­tally.

In four Tests against Eng­land in 2015-16, Ma­sood faced 57 de­liv­er­ies from An­der­son. He was dis­missed six times, av­er­ag­ing 2.5 a dis­missal, Ma­sood’s tech­nique prised open with the pre­ci­sion of a sur­geon.

So, Ma­sood recog­nised that his game needed surgery. And quickly: few weeks af­ter be­ing dropped to spare him from An­der­son in 2016, Ma­sood turned 27. “Look­ing at my game, I had a lot of flaws,” Ma­sood told the Red Inker pod­cast re­cently.

Af­ter Pak­istan’s tour, Ma­sood stayed in Eng­land, where he has a fam­ily home hand­ily near Lord’s, for an­other month. Ma­sood con­tacted Gary Palmer, the free­lance cricket coach who has worked with Alas­tair Cook and Dom Si­b­ley.

Palmer’s di­ag­no­sis was that Ma­sood was get­ting his head too far out­side off stump, caus­ing him to lose his bal­ance and judg­ment of which balls he could leave. “We worked ex­ten­sively on his tech­nique, align­ment, bal­ance and play­ing straight and leav­ing the ball out­side off stump,” Palmer re­calls.

Four years ago, Shan Ma­sood left 3 per cent of balls in the 20cm strip out­side off stump. Here the fig­ure was 22 per cent

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