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Mystery man catapults Lumb to World Twenty20

By Pranav Soneji

Michael Lumb in action in Abu Dhabi
Lumb hit eight boundaries and two sixes in his explosive innings against England

Michael Lumb is set to fulfil his ambition and open the batting for England at the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies - but he has no idea who to thank.

The 30-year-old propelled himself into the 15-man squad for the third edition of the tournament, which begins on Friday, following an eye-catching 58 in a five-wicket victory for the England Lions against the first team in Abu Dhabi in February.

Opening the batting alongside Craig Kieswetter, Lumb's blistering knock from just 35 deliveries as England, including Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann, were humbled by their second string.

But that innings may never have happened had a mystery figure not propelled Lumb to the top of the batting order. Was it England coach Andy Flower? National selector Geoff Miller? Twenty20 captain Paul Collingwood?

"I don't know who it was," the Hampshire batsman told BBC Sport. "I was told I was opening, I don't know how it came about.

"I felt in good touch the whole trip, but I had been batting further down the order, which was a new role for me.

"But luckily I got the opportunity to bat up the order against England. That's when things fell into place for me. I'm used to opening so I thought I would play my natural game - and it came off. It was nice timing."

Watch Lumb at the crease and it's almost impossible not to draw comparisons with Matthew Hayden.

Like the Australian, Lumb possesses broad shoulders and an upright stance, allowing him to generate awesome power with a high backlift to swat slog-sweeps deep into the stands as well as punching ferocious drives down the ground.

It's his "natural game" that has caught the attention of England fans, cricket observers and future team-mates alike.

Fast bowler James Anderson described Lumb's approach as "fearless", with the potential to form England's most explosive opening unit alongside the equally abrasive Kieswetter.

Like the Somerset wicketkeeper, Lumb is another member of England's South Africa-born coterie who have made just as many headlines for being born in Johannesburg than their six-hitting abilities.

I was terrified. You have never heard noise like it, I don't know how to describe it

Michael Lumb on his IPL debut

The pair formed a lethal opening partnership for the Lions - they put on 100 against England before Lumb was forced to retire hurt when he was struck on the helmet by a Stuart Broad bouncer - taking full advantage of the six-over fielding restrictions with a series of aerial assaults all around the Sheik Zayed Stadium.

And Lumb is confident the duo can give England fresh impetus in the crucial powerplay overs, an area England have continually struggled to take advantage of in the international arena.

"I've played against Craig a bit for Hampshire and we toured together for the Lions," said Lumb.

"I got to know him during that time. He's a hell of a player - he's a really destructive batsman who can take the game away from you very quickly.

"And now he has been involved with England in Bangladesh and has done really well. I think we got on well, in the games we seemed to formed a good partnership.

"If that opportunity arises in the West Indies, then we have that experience of playing together previously."

His belligerent approach at the crease belies his softly spoken demeanour.

However, he made no apology for his Johannesburg upbringing or that he represented South Africa in the under-19s World Cup in 1998.

He moved to Yorkshire in 2000, the county where his father Richard earned a reputation as Geoff Boycott's trusted opening partner during the 70s and early 80s.

Michael Lumb and Kevin Pietersen
Lumb toured to India with the England A squad with Kevin Pietersen in 2004

"We didn't approach Yorkshire, Yorkshire approached us," said Lumb, who qualifies for England through a British passport.

"I didn't come to England saying 'can I play over here?' They rang my dad and said 'can Michael play over here?'

His career at Headingley began promisingly, enjoying a prolific season in 2003 which earned him a call-up to the England National Academy squad to tour India the following winter.

However, his career stalled soon after but a move to Hampshire in 2006 revitalised his ambitions to represent England.

"I had a good time at Yorkshire, but maybe I wasn't trying as hard as I could," said Lumb.

"I could have stayed, but I want to play for England and to go to the highest level, you need to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

"The move to the Rose Bowl set up new challenges. The support staff and a new environment was something I needed and things kicked off from there."

Of further benefit for England will be Lumb's invaluable Indian Premier League education having spent seven weeks in Jaipur with the Rajasthan Royals, captained by former Hampshire team-mate Shane Warne.

Lumb played the most matches out of the eight Englishmen involved in the lucrative Twenty20 league, scoring 278 runs with a highest score of 83, along with a seriously impressive strike-rate of 144.79.

606: DEBATE

And his performances on the subcontinent have not gone unnoticed by Flower.

"He was out there exposed to crowds of 30, 40 and 50 thousand people and a lot of noise and excitement," said the England coach.

"When he makes his debut for England it won't be as much of a shock or surprise as it might have been."

However, Lumb's debut in Rajasthan colours did not quite go according to plan.

He was stumped charging down the wicket to Anil Kumble for 10 as Bangalore Royal Challengers thumped the Royals by 10 wickets at a packed Chinnaswamy Stadium.

"I was terrified. You have never heard noise like it, I don't know how to describe it," added Lumb, who joined the Jaipur-based team for $50,000 (£32,349).

"We were in Bangalore and Dale Steyn was bowling quite quick. I was really nervous.

"But as the tournament progressed it felt more normal and I thought 'I could get used to this'."

Expect similar things in the West Indies.



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see also
Bopara leads England to victory
28 Apr 10 |  England
Anderson backs 'fearless' openers
25 Apr 10 |  England
England confirm T20 travel plans
21 Apr 10 |  England
Miller defends Lumb selection
31 Mar 10 |  Cricket
Uncapped Lumb makes England squad
20 Apr 10 |  England
Pietersen queries England bowlers
13 Apr 10 |  England
England face S Africa T20 warm-up
15 Apr 10 |  Cricket
Lumb inspires England Lions win
24 Feb 10 |  England
ICC World Twenty20 2010
17 May 10 |  Cricket


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