Azhar tips leave Shah knocking on England door

Published: Thursday, September 15, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Owais Shah, the leading run scorer in English county cricket this season, has hit himself into contention for the England squad that will tour his native Pakistan this winter -- and it is all down to some coaching tips from former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin.

As a precociously-talented teenager, the Karachi-born Shah was regarded as one of the brightest prospects in English cricket, notably captaining the under-19 side to a World Cup win in 1998.

But a poor run of form after he broke into England's senior one-day side resulted in him being cast into the international wilderness two and a half years ago.

Now 27, Shah has just enjoyed his finest season for Middlesex, hammering a total of 1,656 runs at an average of 69, and is once more knocking on England's door.

"A real turning point came two years ago when I met Mohammad Azharuddin in India," Shah revealed.

"He changed some things about my game, just little things, such as getting more side-on with my stance.

"Since then I've been much more consistent. I've always scored hundreds, even big ones, but now I've got the consistency I've always wanted."

Shah's 15 previous England appearances brought him only 283 runs at an average of 21.76 and he appears resigned to the possibility that his current form will not be enough to make the selectors forget that disappointing record.

"When it comes to playing for England again I feel that I've done everything I possibly could to put my name in the hat," he told The Guardian.

Middlesex coach John Emburey argued that the "much more mature" Shah would be a significant asset for England in Pakistan.

"He is a very fine player of spin-bowling but he has a good all-round game and has the shots to dominate good bowlers.

"If there is no room in the Test side at the moment I'd play him in the one-day team. Freddie Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Owais would make up a very formidable middle order."

England's squad for Pakistan is due to be announced on Monday.

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