When last month southside cricketer Majid Haq got the invitation to join a select team of players from the second tier of the international game, writes Mike Stanger, he was intrigued.
When he heard that this ad-hoc Associate team was to play a game in Dubai against England, his curiosity turned to amazement.
Last week, Haq’s amazement turned into reality, when he took the field in a three-day warm-up match against the world’s top Test team, and duly delivered a hugely impressive series of performances.
The Scotland international with 135 caps to his name, who plays domestic league cricket for Clydesdale at Titwood, first helped the Associates to recover from a disastrous start.
After England had reduced the mix-and-match team from Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan and Namibia to 10 for three wickets, then 90 for six, Haq helped to steady the ship with a measured contribution of 26 towards the eventual total of 281.
When England batted, Haq then took a magnificent catch, diving forward at square leg, to dismiss England captain Andrew Strauss for 17. And, when the off-spinner was asked by captain William Porterfield to bowl, he trapped wicket-keeper Steve Davies in front of the stumps with his first ball.
In the second innings, after England had declared 96 runs behind, Haq again contributed with the bat, once more scoring 26, but this time not out, as the Associate XI built up a lead of 261.
When England batted again, Haq was again in the thick of the action with another, even better, catch diving full length to his right to send opening batsman Alastair Cook back to the pavilion.
When Haq was finally brought on to bowl, he completed a fantastic performance by again dismissing Strauss, this time for 78, as the Associate-level team took seven England wickets to demonstrate that the second-tier cricketing nations were by no means second-class.
Reacting to the praise, he said: “We gave them a good run for their money before they won the game. It’s an experience I will never forget.”