Dave Allen: Mohammad Abbas For Hampshire

Following Mohammad Abbas' contract extension, Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen has taken a look at the seamer's time at The Ageas Bowl so far

The ‘Lockdown’ summer of 2020 was a season to forget for most us with a severely reduced first-class programme, very few overseas players, including Kyle Abbott, stranded in South Africa and Test Matches at the The Ageas Bowl that we could not watch. In two of those three matches, Pakistan opened their bowling with Mohammad Abbas, an experienced seamer who had been playing in the Championship with Leicestershire.

We welcomed back Kyle in 2021 with the outstanding record as one of just four Hampshire bowlers with a career average for the county below 20. He still has that (323 at 19.57) which keeps him in the company of the greatest county bowler Derek Shackleton (2,669 wickets at 18.23) and the two great West Indian fast men Malcolm Marshall (826 at 18.64) and Andy Roberts (244 at 16.70). But now they have company as Kyle Abbott returned in 2021 he teamed up not only with Keith Barker but Hampshire’s new signing Mohammad (‘Mo’) Abbas.

Despite considerable experience he was perhaps something of an unknown quantity when his made his Hampshire debut, by coincidence at his previous home ground, Leicester, in April 2021 and he spent the first part of that game watching our batters compile 612-5 declared, before contributing three wickets to an innings victory. If that was a modest opening, his first home match against Middlesex was anything but that. We struggled somewhat to post a score in excess of 300 but then shot out the visitors for just 79 with Mo taking 6-11 including a hat-trick. We won again.

It was a clear indication of things to come. In ten matches in the re-shaped Championship of 2021, he took 41 wickets at an average just below 16 each and it is perhaps no surprise that his one wicketless match saw us defeated at the Oval. Elsewhere though he took wickets regularly before a mid-season ‘break’ as he toured West Indies with Pakistan, playing two Tests in August. To date at least that concluded his 25 match Test career in which he took 90 wickets at 23.02 each. He then returned to Hampshire for the concluding matches in the First Division although under Covid isolation rules he had to sit out the first, a draw with Yorkshire. Sadly Abbott missed the remaining games injured so the new partnership never bowled together in September, as Hampshire sought their first title in 48 years but Mo twice had five wickets in an innings, at Edgbaston and Liverpool, as we came within one ball and one wicket of the prize.

He returned last year and was if anything more consistent, although with the three pace men sharing the wickets there was surprisingly only one instance of five or more wickets in an innings, 6-45 at the The Ageas Bowl against Gloucestershire – and as with the Middlesex game the year before he came away with nine wickets in the match. He returned home during the period of terrible flooding in Pakistan while we baked through he August break for the various white ball competitions which meant missing a couple of games but in his 12 Championship matches he reached 50 wickets at 17.62 and in his Hampshire Championship career he has now 91 wickets at 16.83, very close to Andy Roberts’ best-of-all average. What is more, in the modern era of faster scoring, covered pitches and few outgrounds he has an excellent economy rate, conceding just 2.62 runs per over plus a strike rate of a wicket every seven-and-a-half overs.

That economy rate might seem profligate compared with ‘Shack’s’ of two runs per over, but the game and the context are so very different now. Only those of us of a certain age can have much of a memory of Derek Shackleton but I have observed on more than one occasion that while no one will ever bowl quite like him again, Mo Abbas is the closest I think I have seen over the years. He has the same light approach, bowls perhaps at the pace of the younger ‘Shack’ but shares with him a sometimes surprising ‘nip’ off the pitch and similarly unerring accuracy. Occasionally Mo will attempt something ‘unusual’ against a set batsman but the similarities are intriguing. In a Hampshire context I can think of no greater compliment to pay a bowler of Mo’s pace and approach – let’s hope his third season with us will bring that extra good fortune we need as we pursue that third Championship title.

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