James Lawton: Aamer's exuberant spirit unleashes a talent that is way beyond his years

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The Independent Online

He has been strewing the evidence of it all through the English summer but yesterday's submission might have been borne by lightning.

However England repaired their situation – and there was no question about the scale of their resurrection –, Mohammad Aamer did rather more than become the youngest player to reach his first 50 Test wickets.

He announced himself, at the age of 18, as one of the great cricketers – a bowler of impact, of enduring menace, who will surely build on the day he brought England to their knees, a position they retrieved only because Jonathan Trott, alone among the team's front-line batting, had the nerve and the resilience to deal with an onslaught worthy of older men who are now deeply embedded in the history of their game.

It is not just the precocious technical brilliance of Aamer that is so stunning. More beguiling is the spirit of a player whose exuberance seems to carry him so for beyond the trenches of Test warfare.

He seems to inhabit his own space, his own youthful charm – and a belief that he can, well, do anything that is set before him.

At Lord's yesterday it was certainly reasonable to believe that he had joined the category of sportsmen who are oblivious to the pressures that can be inflicted by older, cannier opponents.

Trott, before he was joined by the boldly resistant Stuart Broad, assumed that responsibility single-handedly and with magnificent application. He is maybe not the most endearing of front-line performers, though his reputation for time- wasting defiance of cricket convention probably didn't suffer from the showy dressing-down he received from umpire Billy Bowden, but the old ground naturally warmed to his willingness to work against Aamer and the conditions that helped him lay waste England's middle order.

He kept England alive with sheer, hard-headed professionalism, he took the young flyer on with the combativeness of a champion middleweight and yet, when his century is posted on the Lord's honours board, along with Aamer's brilliant bowling performance, it perhaps should be remembered that he might also have been one of the prodigy's victims.

Trott was not completely flawless and when he edged one into the slips it was to a cordon which lacked a third slip. Inevitably, the edge came off Aamer, and no one's fury was greater than the watching Michael Holding. It seemed to the legendary paceman that when a bowler of any age, or any discipline, takes his opponents to the edge of disaster, he is entitled to every morsel of possible support.

Yet if Trott, who secured his place in cricket history with a maiden Test century against Australia at The Oval last year, was revisiting the record books once more, he might some time concede that no one could have inflicted himself more dramatically than his young adversary.

Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, all were swept aside in the tide of Aamer's assault, but when fate began to run against him, when, as England moved ever further into the zone of recovery, Broad edged one of his deliveries, his face registered not rage but something like the resignation of the ages.

This seems to be the great trick of Mohammad Aamer. He can smile apparently in the belief that he will gain his rewards if he just keeps doing what is so obviously within his power, which is to bowl with a bite and an intelligence and a consistency way beyond his years.

Of course, he cannot win every day, he cannot always be the master of every situation. But he can play with a relish which is warming beyond any set of loyalties belonging to anyone watching him go to his work.

The way he accomplished that chore yesterday morning went beyond the ebb and flow of your average Test match. It was about the nature of fulfilling yourself in a way that announced the highest instincts and motivation.

Broad, of course, made his own statement about an extraordinary level of talent and his maiden century was a milestone that he will no doubt savour for all of his days. However, Broad is, relatively speaking, a veteran, a young man whose love of battle, it has to be said, is not unhindered by a certain failure to control his temperament. This too, is something that can be resolved, but in the case of Aamer it appears such striving seems more than anything a gift of nature.

Aamer has that quality which shapes so many of his sport's greatest performers.

He plays with exhilaration and a constant commitment that has been unswerving in six Test matches in just seven weeks. That would be a heavy demand on the most seasoned of performers, but when Aamer came on with the new ball on an evening which was witnessing the decline of his highest hopes, all of his strength was visible again.

He came in with all the drive and self-belief that have become the trademarks of his professional character. When he runs in, it is so easy to believe in his ability to strike the heaviest of blows. The batsmen believe it too. Broad was relaxing into his most confident mood before Aamer was recalled in the hope that his lightning would indeed strike twice.

When it didn't, experienced observers were stunned by the decision to withdraw him after just a few overs because if Broad duly made it, if he crowned what for him had been a controversial series with a century that may be crucial to English confidence in the approach to the Ashes, there was a noticeable tightening of his mood when Aamer came back to work.

But then that was true of everyone who faced an 18-year-old who in just a year has made an indelible mark on the face of his game. Even Trott was required to modify his game, and reach down for the best of his resistance.

It was not quite what Aamer hoped for when he came storming into the brightest morning of his infant career. But then it was still another announcement of what, at such an improbable age, he already means.

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