Saqib Mahmood believes he is capable of being an express paceman and credited former England seamer Darren Gough with bringing him out of a lull after underwhelming on the speed gun during last year’s tour of New Zealand.
Mahmood had been regularly clocked at 90mph for Lancashire but was unable to replicate those speeds for England in three Twenty20s against the Kiwis in November, when he took only three wickets and had an eye-watering economy rate of 11.5.
Gough, though, was a transcendent figure on Mahmood after linking up with the England squad as a fast bowling consultant for a couple of weeks before the Test series which followed against the Black Caps.
Mahmood now has another opportunity to impress during the limited-overs series against South Africa – although he missed England’s first practice session in Paarl on Thursday after feeling unwell.
While he is unlikely to feature in their first 50-over warm-up against a South Africa Invitation XI on Friday, if given the nod to face the Proteas next month, Mahmood intends to stick to what got him selected in the first place.
And bowling fast remains a key weapon in his armoury as he said prior to his departure to South Africa: “Speed is definitely important and it’s something that can set me apart from a lot of guys in county cricket.
“I was 5mph off where I wanted to be but it was nicer when I moved to the red-ball tour, a new, fresh set of eyes in Darren Gough picked up a couple of things pretty quickly.
“I felt out of rhythm and couldn’t work out what it was but he spotted it straight away, something to do with my run-up.
“As soon as I put that back into my training, I felt good again and thought ‘God, I wish someone had told me this two weeks ago’.
“Exposure to high pressure situations can do things, you start to try harder and that can have a backwards effect.
“Having been through that and then reflected on it, you think ‘right, just make sure I don’t do this next time’, just little things to stay on top of and just do the things that I’ve done well in county cricket because that is what’s got me there.”
Mahmood, who, alongside Craig Overton and Olly Stone, was awarded the first England pace bowling development contracts earlier this week, was the leading wicket-taker in last year’s Royal London One-Day series.
Looking ahead to a potential ODI debut, Mahmood said: “It’s a good opportunity to go out there and get into the XI and perform. I’ve never been of a mindset of locking places, even at Lancashire.
“As a bowler I can maybe be a bit more attacking (in ODI cricket). I’m just looking forward to being out there and playing. I don’t look too far ahead.”
Jofra Archer’s ongoing elbow injury means Mahmood has been retained for now in the T20 squad, having originally been slated to travel to Australia for three four-day matches for England Lions.
It remains unclear whether he will still make the trip but, with the 2021/22 Ashes in his sights, he thinks experiencing Australian conditions first-hand will be a boon.
Speaking at a Lions media day, he added: “(The next Ashes) is a long time away but if I can perform in that series I can take some confidence if I am there in two years.”