David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

Cricket: T20 fan sees benefits for test cricket

By David Leggat

Auckland Aces import Azhar Mahmood is aiming to help Auckland retain the HRV Cup. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland Aces import Azhar Mahmood is aiming to help Auckland retain the HRV Cup. Photo / Richard Robinson

In their spare time during the domestic T20 competition, Auckland's players could do worse than bend the ear of their Pakistani import Azhar Mahmood.

His is a cricketing tale well worth listening to.

Now 36, the former test and ODI international is aiming to help Auckland retain the HRV Cup, and thus get a second crack at the lucrative Champions League in India late next year.

In his first appearance, a 10-run win over Wellington in a match last weekend shortened by rain to a 12-over crapshoot, Mahmood slammed 29 off 17 balls, snared a wicket, grabbed a catch and suggested he'll be good value for Auckland's campaign.

And those who take the line that T20 is the bad guy in black when it comes to international cricket's pecking order won't get much change out of Mahmood.

He sees only good coming out of the shortest version of the game of which he's played 97 with a batting strike rate of 143.78.

"My personal view is T20 brings a lot of things to [test] cricket," he said.

Test cricket is the ultimate test of your skill. How many tests do you see now that are drawn? There are more results because of T20.

"People say [Australian opener] David Warner is a T20 player but he's got 100 in a test.

"Now you see teams chasing down 300 on the last day. Ten years ago, 300 on a turning track? You can't do that.

"But now people believe in themselves and go out and win the game from there. It brings a lot of entertainment to test cricket."

Mahmood began life as an opening batsman and offspinner, became a lower order batsman and fast-medium bowler - "it's been like a rollercoaster" he quipped - and now thinks of himself as a batting allrounder.

He played 21 tests for Pakistan, starting off batting at No 8 and scoring 128 not out and 50 not out against South Africa on debut on his home ground at Rawalpindi.

That first innings included a 151-run 10th wicket stand with Mushtaq Ahmed, equalling the world record of New Zealanders Brian Hastings and Richard Collinge against Pakistan at Eden Park in 1973.

It remains his favourite cricketing memory. Four months later he'd scored two more centuries against the South Africans and his place seemed secure. Instead his last test was three years later in Manchester.

There have been 143 ODIs the last of which was Pakistan's dismal three-wicket loss to Ireland in Jamaica at the 2007 World Cup. It had a tragic aftermath with the death of their coach Bob Woolmer.

"We played really badly that day. Bob passed away that night. We stayed nine or 10 days in the Caribbean after that and they were the worst days of my life," Mahmood said.

Mahmood owed a recall to the Pakistan side to Woolmer.

"He helped me a lot in my game and he was a nice human being," he said.

The past year hasn't been good for Pakistan with three of their best players, former captain Salman Butt, and new ball pair Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer jailed for their part in the spot-fixing scandal in England in 2010.

Mahmood is reluctant to comment on that case but believes the game's governors need to act smartly to work with the teenagers and "teach them how to avoid these bad people".

He did a stint in the defunct Indian Cricket League, had four seasons at one English county, Surrey, has just completed a fourth at another, Kent, and has signed on for two more, has British citizenship and lives in Surrey.

* In the other second-round games today, Canterbury host Otago at Timaru's Aorangi Stadium and Wellington play Central Districts at the Basin Reserve.

Auckland v ND
Colin Maiden Park, 5pm today

Auckland (from): Gareth Hopkins (c), Martin Guptill, Brad Cachopa, Anaru Kitchen, Azhar Mahmood, Colin de Grandhomme, Dusan Hakaraia, Colin Munro, Kyle Mills, Andre Adams, Ronnie Hira, Michael Bates, Bhupinder Singh, Chris Martin.

ND (from): Scott Styris (c), Brad Wilson, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson, Hamish Marshall, Peter McGlashan, Anton Devcich, Brett Hampton, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Graeme Aldridge, Brent Arnel.

- NZ Herald

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