Sajid Mahmood says he is looking forward to the challenge of pitting his wits against some of the best Twenty20 players in the world as Lancashire prepare for their opening game of the season against Durham Dynamos on Friday evening.
The 28 year-old bowler will come up against New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor and South African all-rounder Albie Morkel when the Lightning open their Friends Provident t20 campaign at the Riverside.
Mahmood, who played two internationals for England in South Africa over the winter, has taken 36 wickets in 37 T20 matches in his career, including 23 of them in the last two seasons for his county.
He should also come up against the likes of Yorkshire's Herschelle Gibbs, Derbyshire's Loots Bosman, Leicestershire's Brad Hodge and Nottinghamshire's David Hussey amongst others in the North Division over the coming six weeks or so.
Mahmood said: "The standard of cricket is going to go higher with players of that quality coming in. To face them in games will give you a gauge as to where your game is and how far away you are from international cricket.
"You can sometimes play in second team cricket and nail your skills down, but the real test will be to do it against the best Twenty20 players in the world. You've got people like Symonds (Surrey) and Gibbs playing this year, and bowling against them really puts you to the test."
Lancashire only play one more LV= County Championship fixture before July 20, with the 16 Twenty20 groups game played either side of the return Roses fixture at Old Trafford at the end of this month.
And Mahmood is in favour of the way the fixtures have been scheduled. He continued: "It's nice to have a block of Twenty20 games coming up so we can be more specific in our training.
"As a bowler, your variations are completely different to the Championship. Your areas, tactics and fields are also different.
"It's exciting because you've got to nail your skills. It really gives you something to focus on. You know that if you don't nail your skills, you are going to go the distance. There is plenty of pressure.
"It's a funny game because sometimes you can bowl really well and get none, but you should have a good chance of getting wickets because the batsmen have to go after you. It's all about execution."
The Lightning won eight of their ten group games last season, which was more than any other county in the group stages, but were then knocked out by Somerset in a quarter final bowl-out.
Mahmood added: "We played some really good cricket last year. If we play anything like this year, we will not be too far away from Finals Day."
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
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