Red Rose swift to snap up Yorkshire reject Shahzad
Yorkshire tradition decrees that they spend most of the winter arguing with each other. In an exciting new twist they have now encroached on the season itself with the contentious decision to release the fast bowler Ajmal Shahzad after only three matches.
The dispute between club and player reached a conclusion yesterday with the announcement that Shahzad will spend the rest of the summer on loan at Lancashire. It emerged last week that there were irreconcilable differences and that Shahzad's objectives were not necessarily shared by Yorkshire, who have also lost Australian seamer Mitchell Starc for today's game against Gloucestershire because of visa problems.
The feeling was that Shahzad, who has played one Test match for England, was not a team player. It was hoped that the advent of the Australian coach, Jason Gillespie, might help matters but it has been all to no avail and the club Twitter service yesterday was sympathetic but firm: "Ajmal had different thoughts on how his cricket should go than club. He wasn't happy. Threatened positive atmosphere in squad. No one at club is happy that Ajmal has gone and we do genuinely wish him well."
At 26, Shahzad's best years should still be ahead of him and he is moving, of course, from the Second Division of the Championship to the First. His departure is especially sad because Shahzad was the first Yorkshire-born Asian to play for the county.
His new side need him to make an impression immediately. Lancashire's defence of their Championship has not gone the way they intended and after four matches they are in seventh position without a win. Lancashire's match at Sussex starting today is important. It seems ridiculous that the sides are meeting for the second time this season – Sussex won by 10 wickets at Liverpool last month – but that is the way of the contemporary fixture list. By the start of the second week of June, the Championship will be half-done, which of course makes it half-baked. The other early laggards are Worcestershire, which was rather expected, and Durham, which was not.
Worcestershire, blighted again by flooding at their New Road ground, were offered some respite yesterday. Their match against Surrey, for whom Kevin Pietersen returns from the Indian Premier League for a single match, was expected to be moved to Kidderminster. It has been reinstated as the waters receded.
Whether the metaphorical ones will be so obliging seems unlikely. After four matches, Worcestershire have still to register a single batting bonus point. Durham have achieved only one batting point from four matches and there is a worrying fragility about their top order, hardly improved by the absence of Ben Stokes. Neither Steve Harmison nor Liam Plunkett have appeared for the first XI. Harmison injured himself in pre-season indoor nets, Plunkett is remodelling his action in the second team.
Durham need to conjure a win from somewhere and a home match against Somerset should hardly fill them with joy. Vernon Philander, who has already taken 15 wickets at 16.93, is in exacting form. Philander is gaining vital added experience ahead of South Africa's Test series against England. No doubt the letter of thanks is already in the post from England's coach, Andy Flower.
Nottinghamshire entertain Middlesex, and will again have the services of their Test duo, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, but Andre Adams, their overseas player with 28 wickets already, perhaps poses a bigger threat.
The improbable early leaders of the Second Division, Derbyshire, are at Hampshire, although the most scrutinised fixture will be at Bristol where Yorkshire – minus Jonny Bairstow on Lions duty – will be displaying their all-for-one-and-one-for-all philosophy.
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