DateLine: 19th October 2005
Mohammad Ali’s 2002 debut in England in 2002 had it all – a whirlwind 53 from No 9, crucial late wickets in an improbable Derbyshire win, and the attendant press confused about and contesting his actual name. In his following matches, almost by way of compensation, his nasty habit of hospitalising batsmen gave the media ample opportunity to engage in the predictable “knockout” headlines. However, things were never quite the same again. As the day to day toil of the county circuit and it’s accompanying injuries took a toll, his 47 first class wickets in his first year had fallen to 28 in his second and just 10 in 2004. This followed a career in Pakistani domestic cricket in the 1990’s which saw him take 179 wickets in 55 First class matches. Although his express pace, married to a slingy left arm action, was often a real handful for batsmen, it rarely went for less than 4 an over, and his wickets came at 38 in England. His release from Derbyshire in August 2004 still came as something of a surprise though, as Derbyshire Director of Cricket David Houghton had earlier in the season spoken publicly of his belief in his match winning potential. However, after a single appearance in the totesport League for Middlesex in September 2005 he was awarded a contract for 2006, and his recently acquired status as an England qualified player means Middlesex can field him without financial penalty His return to the First class game means league and minor county batsmen now have less cause to find that spare helmet or to reinforce their batting gloves.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)