England and Lancashire fast bowler Saqib Mahmood admitted his competitive juices kicking in settled any nerves as he marked his return from 10 months out injured with a three-wicket haul.
Mahmood was a rare gem in England’s tour of the West Indies last March with six wickets in two Tests, but a stress fracture in his back the following month has kept him sidelined for nearly a year.
He made his comeback on Wednesday for England Lions, encouragingly taking three for 27 in 7.1 overs in the tourists’ four-wicket win over Sri Lanka A in the first unofficial ODI between the teams in Colombo.
“Pre-game I was very internal and thinking about myself,” Mahmood said. “To be honest, I just didn’t want to look stupid out there.
“It’s natural to have those sorts of thoughts when you haven’t played for so long, but at the same time there was a part of me that wanted to go out and really impress.
“One of their opening batters got given out lbw and stood there for a little longer than he should have and I just had a word with him. That was literally it, it got me going.
“From there it was about the batters I was bowling at. The competitive instincts take over. For a first game back and not knowing how it would go, I feel really good and chuffed with how it has gone.”
Mahmood, who hailed a pre-game chat with strength and conditioning coach Phil Scott for bringing the best out of him, has been selected in England’s ODI squad for next month’s white-ball Bangladesh tour.
With that series opener in just a fortnight’s time, Mahmood, who could have had four wickets on his return but for a dropped slip catch, insisted he was not content merely to get back on the park.
“I wanted to contribute, I didn’t want it just to be a case of getting through the game,” he said.
“Every game I play I want to contribute as much as I can and put performances in which stands me aside from everyone else. That’s my drive pre-game. I was wary that a lot of it is mental coming back.
“This is why these games are really important, especially before Bangladesh. If I can get two or three games out here it just means that all the cobwebs and things you can forget about after not playing for a while are exposed. I felt great and hopefully I can kick on from here.”
Sri Lanka A were all out for 230 in 45.1 overs, with the Lions securing a comfortable victory with a whopping 58 balls to spare. Jacob Bethell, one of five Lions debutants, followed up his two for 50 with 50 from 58 deliveries at the top of the order, while Sam Hain top-scored with 52 off 51 balls.