When signing for Lancashire from Hampshire at the start of last November, Kabir Ali would have dreamt of making an impact on his Red Rose debut. Firstly with the ball and then hopefully with the bat.
What he would not have dreamt of would have been a two-month wait from the start of the season due to a right knee injury he sustained whilst playing in the Bangladesh Premier League at the start of the year.
Lancashire squad to play Leeds/Bradford MCCU: Agathangelou, Ali, Brown, Clark, Davies, Ghaus, Griffiths, Lilley, Livingstone, Moore, Newby, Parry, Smith.
But now that the 32-year-old former England, Worcestershire and Hampshire fast bowler is off and running with his new county, he is hoping for more success after his two-for and fifty in Sunday’s Yorkshire Bank 40 defeat against Durham.
Ali is set for his first outing with the red ball in Lancashire first-team colours tomorrow when they travel across the Pennines to face the students of Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities in a three-day friendly - not first-class - at Weetwood in Leeds.
He took 2-50 from eight overs and hit 59 off 29 balls up in the North East on Sunday, including a 22-ball fifty, before revealing his aims for the rest of the season, his 15th in county cricket.
“The biggest thing is to stay fit. If I do that, I'll pick wickets up along the way,” said Ali. “Unfortunately I've had the injury, but I've put the hard yards in. All that has paid off.
“I've worked hard with the medical staff at the club and have played some second team games, so it was nice to be back playing in a Lancashire kit.
“I had quite a bit done to it (knee), so I think we set the start of this month as our target. We had to be a little bit careful. We could have pushed myself a little bit, but we weren't quite sure how it would react.
“I think there's quite a few things (that have been involved in the recovery). I think there's mental toughness because, as I say, I had quite a bit done.
“It was about trying to get through each day and each bowling spell, then trying to build it up from one spell to two spells to three spells. It's been frustrating, but we've got over the hurdle now. Fingers crossed, I won't be sitting it out now.”
If Ali can take wickets in Leeds this week and then against Surrey at Guildford in Sunday’s YB40 match, he will put himself in contention to play in next Wednesday’s LV= County Championship match against Essex at Chelmsford.
“I've played a few second-team games and got through them. But we've done quite well as a bowling unit, so it will be quite hard for me to get in. Hopefully if I keep performing well, I'll get a chance,” he added.
Red Rose all-rounder Luis Reece will captain the hosts. Reece, who has impressed for the second XI in recent weeks, is in the latter stages of a Sports Performance degree at Leeds Metropolitan, and Peter Moores believes it will benefit all parties if the 22-year-old plays for the hosts.
Not only will it free up a place in Lancashire’s team for another player, it will also be good for Reece’s development to play against county opposition.
The all-rounder, who hopes to be fit to bowl this week after a niggling knee injury, has already led the students to an impressive first-class win over Leicestershire at Grace Road this season, a match in which he scored 35 and 114 not out and took 2-39 and 4-28.
He also took seven wickets in a three-day win over Sussex at Weetwood last year.
The Leyland professional is looking forward to the clash: “It’s a bit weird knowing that you’ll be playing against your own county for another team that you play for,” he said. “But it should be a good game.
“These sort of games for Uni teams, you’re not expected to win. But we’ve caused a few upsets along the way, and personally I’ve done well before. Hopefully I can put a good performance in and move closer to a first-team spot at Lancashire.
“We’ve had two county scalps in two years, and we probably would have beaten Yorkshire during the last day last year had it not been rained off. We’re more than capable of standing on our own two feet and putting in a good performance. Hopefully, touch wood, the boys can put in a good account of ourselves this week.”
Reece was the first man to score a second XI double hundred for Lancashire since Steven Mullaney in 2009 less than a fortnight ago when he hit 201 not out as an opener in a Championship match against Durham at Emirates Old Trafford.