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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 13:05 GMT
Mahmood impresses in India
By Kate Laven
In Madras, India

Sajid Mahmood
I want to play for England as soon as possible and be one of the best bowlers around
Sajid Mahmood

The one bright spot on an otherwise gloomy England A tour in India is the discovery of a genuine new fast bowling talent - Lancashire's Sajid Mahmood.

At 6ft 4ins and lean, with an action reminiscent of West Indies legend Curtly Ambrose, the 22-year-old from Bolton has impressed all the experts at the ECB's National Academy in Loughborough.

He has also caused an upset on the dusty flat tracks in India, having already snapped up 13 wickets since England A's tour started.

Mahmood clocked up bowling speeds of 93.6mph when measured at Loughborough which, he boasts, was faster than Simon Jones.

He has unsettled batsmen with his late and reverse swing, which he has developed over the past few months with Academy bowling coach Troy Cooley and his room-mate Jones.

There were whispers at Old Trafford last season a new fast bowler had been unearthed and his 15 first class wickets in six matches drew attention to his potential, and earned him a place at the Academy.

Mahmood learned his cricket from his father who played in the local Bolton League, and for nine years, played for Ashley Bridge, also in the league, as well as Smithill School, where Essex skipper Ronnie Irani was a student before him.

While studying for three A-levels in biology, geography and science, he worked for 10 hours each week for two years at the local Morrison's supermarket in Bolton.

But with a wry sense of humour, Mahmood said he spent most the time trying to find ways of dodging work.

He moved to another club Edgerton for a change but at the age of 17 started to play for the county youth sides.

Mahmood told BBC Sport: "I was not selected in the original squad but one of the bowlers was injured and they asked if I was available.

"I got four wickets and 20 runs and they told me to carry on playing."

Sajid Mahmood and Simon Jones
Could Mahmood beat Jones to an England place?
As a direct result, he won a year's scholarship to Lancashire, before being offered a contract in 2003.

His success has not come overnight but the next step, playing cricket for England, is a goal he is desperate to achieve within a year.

"When I was 17, I wasn't sure if I could make it in cricket but in the past two years I have really had good self-belief.

"I want to play for England as soon as possible and be one of the best bowlers around.

"People have talked about me going to the West Indies and that would be great but my aim is to play for England in a year so I'm working really hard to achieve that."

He also has a fast bowler's temperament and is not shy in having a pop at his targets.

"Being a fast bowler, you have to be aggressive," he said.

"The other day, one of the batsmen swore at me and wound me up so when I got him out, I told him where to go," he said, referring to JP Yadav's dismissal and Mahmood's petulant gesture towards the pavilion.

But he added: "I knew after I'd done it that it wasn't the right thing to do but I just got caught up in the moment.

"I know I have to do something about my short fuse."

Mahmood is learning fast and showing dramatic improvement, which should delight the selectors as they debate who should the last two bowling places in England's one-day side for the West Indies.

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