Lumb full of passion play as he prepares for final big bash


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The Independent Online

There has never been a player quite like Michael Lumb in the history of international cricket. Not only classified exclusively as a Twenty20 performer, he is also a global tournament specialist.

Of the nine matches he has so far played for England, seven were in the 2010 World Twenty20. And in the nick of time, after a gap of more than a year and 10 matches he has been redrafted for the defence of their title in Sri Lanka. At 32 there is no certainty of shelf life after this tournament. But he is grateful to have come this far.

''If I finish tomorrow I'd be very happy,'' he said. ''I have been very lucky, played in Lord's finals, in the Big Bash in Australia, won a World Cup. I don't think I can complain, but the passion still burns, I'm still ambitious. It's time to pack in when you lose your ambition.''

Lumb's liaison with England has been resurrected after a miserable couple of years. He will probably not start the competition as the first-choice opening batsman, but the way his career has turned round makes anything possible.

For much of two seasons he was injured, first with a broken foot after being hit by a ball and then with a grotesquely damaged ankle when he tripped awkwardly over a football in a pre-match training routine. Complications set in after surgery and he was also in the middle of severing relations with his county, Hampshire.

These were dark days for a sportsman entering his post-prime years but the move to Nottinghamshire this summer revived his fortunes. And a fortnight ago his wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to the couple's first child, Edward. This is the sporting life. For Lumb (right) it is suddenly apple- blossom time again.

''I had picked up a lot of injuries so I thought I was in the last-chance saloon,'' he said ''But I thought I still had a good chance for England even though my wife said, 'You won't be getting a call.' ''

Lumb is the son of the long-time Yorkshire opening batsman Richard, who opened the batting for the county with Geoff Boycott for a decade. When young Michael was five, the family moved to South Africa. ''I had a broad Yorkshire accent then and in the house it was always me and dad against my mum and sister, with us shouting for England.''

At the age of 20, Lumb came to England to follow his father at Yorkshire. He stayed six years before moving to Hampshire, both because he felt he was in a comfort zone and because he was sought out by Hampshire's captain, Shane Warne, whom it is difficult to refuse.

England remained a speck on the horizon but he was always adept at T20 cricket from the moment it started in 2003. It took three years, however, before it was recognised his attributes were ideal for opening.

''I have always played reasonably freely in one-day cricket and this was a chance to do that, to express myself a little bit,'' he said. ''Don't get me wrong, I have been in the game long enough to know there is a fair bit of luck involved and that it doesn't go your way every day, so you do chance your arm. It's a part of my style of play and suits my game.''

The timing of the start of Lumb's England career was stunning. He and Craig Kieswetter went in to open the batting for England Lions against England in a warm-up match before the first of two T20 internationals against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in February 2010.

The Lions won by five wickets with Kieswetter scoring 81 and Lumb 55 not out in two parts, coming back to the crease with blood streaming down his face to hit the winning fours after retiring hurt when hit on the head by a bouncer. Two months later they were both in England's World Twenty20 squad. The pair made their official international debuts in the opening match of the tournament and stayed together throughout. They did not always succeed but they both had the asset of recognising failure is permissible.

Lumb's county colleague Alex Hales is expected to open with Kieswetter when England start next week, but Lumb's left-handedness is in his favour. The new dad said: ''The last 12 months were a bit desperate. To have turned everything round like this is wonderful."