Owais Shah has more to gain than most from England's five-match one-day series in New Zealand. Shah is a pivotal member of England's one-day team – who played their second match against the Black Caps this morning here – scoring valuable runs batting at No 6.
But his ultimate goal is to become a fixture in Michael Vaughan's Test side, and the best way of forcing his way in to that team is by scoring heavily in England's four remaining one-day games.
To date Shah has made just two Test appearances for England. The 29-year-old impressed on his debut against India, scoring 88 and 38 in Mumbai two years ago, but looked all at sea against the West Indies at Lord's last summer.
Shah was unfortunate not to play in England's pre-Christmas three-Test series against Sri Lanka. Ravi Bopara, the Essex all-rounder, was controversially selected ahead of him, a decision that proved to be wrong. And the Middlesex batsman will nervously await the judgement of the selectors at the end of this one-day series, where he will be competing with his county team-mate, Andrew Strauss, for the final batting position.
Strauss is currently warming up for the Test series by playing state cricket in New Zealand for Northern Districts. The England opener has hardly impressed, scoring just 171 one-day runs in nine innings. Despite failing to reach 40, Vaughan has suggested that Strauss will return at the top of the order with the captain dropping down to three. The best way for Shah to scupper this plan is by batting beautifully over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
"I would like to think that my performances in the one-day series would help my chances of playing in the Test side," Shah said. "We have got a history in English cricket that if you do play well in one-day cricket you step up; it has often been used as a stepping stone to Test cricket.
"It will certainly not hinder my chances if I play well but we just have to wait and see what the make-up of the Test team is. If I fit in it would be brilliant. I was disappointed not to get a go in Sri Lanka. I was desperate to get a chance because it is my ultimate goal to play in the Test side.
"Ravi got a go ahead of me and it didn't quite work out for him. Being left out has made me work harder and be even hungrier to get a Test spot then keep it. I suppose I will be in the same boat I was in two months ago but this time it is with Straussy. I do not wish ill on anyone. The only competition I have is with myself with the aim being to get better every time I practice or play.
"Anyway, it is not my problem; it is the coach and the captain's. They are the ones that pick the side to win a Test and if I am a part of that, then happy days. But the Test series is still some way off and I have to make sure I play well now. If I keep putting performances in then it is up to the selectors to judge if I am good enough to play Test cricket."
Duncan Fletcher, England's former coach, did not rate Shah highly but the current set-up, controlled by Peter Moores, believe he has a lot to offer. And the way in which Shah has been treated has allowed him to enjoy his cricket.
"The feedback and communication now is much better than it was," Shah admitted. "Then you were just told you weren't playing and that was it. I now feel as though I am part of a squad, as I do at Middlesex, when before I didn't. I feel the team wants me to be here, whereas in the past I was just filling in because someone was injured."
* England women and Australia shared the one-day series 2-2 after the hosts won by 41 runs in the fifth and final match in Sydney. Set 212 to win, England lost their last six wickets for 32 runs as they were bowled out for 170. Afterwards, England's Jane Smit – the only remaining survivor of the 1993 World Cup-winning side – announced her international retirement.Reuse content