Warwickshire lead Saqib Mahmood chase as England bowler returns | County Championship

Saqib Mahmood returns for Lancashire on Thursday and begins what could be his final season at the club amid an impasse in contract talks that has put Warwickshire and others on high alert.

The 25-year-old fast bowler has risen through the ranks at Old Trafford from its academy setup and made his Test debut during England’s recent Caribbean tour but finds himself out of contract at the end of this campaign.

County rules mean players in their final year are free to speak to rival clubs from 1 June and, with previous negotiations between Lancashire and Mahmood over the winter understood to have reached a stalemate, there is a growing expectation he could move on.

A number of counties are monitoring the situation and the reigning champions, Warwickshire, are among them. While Mahmood grew up in the north-west, he was born in Birmingham and still has family in the city, with the club hoping this – plus the appeal of remaining at a Test ground – aids their chances.

Mahmood is said to remain on good terms with Lancashire despite the difference in opinion over a new deal but has already made one move away from Old Trafford in his career. He swapped Manchester Originals for Oval Invincibles last year when his intitial “icon” deal was downgraded by the franchise after the Hundred’s Covid-related postponement in 2020.

This will be a pivotal summer for Mahmood after turning down the Indian Premier League and stating his Test ambitions, with the prospect of a first full England central contract in September if he can build on the performances that made him one of the chief positives to emerge from last month’s 1-0 defeat to West Indies.

Rested by England since that tour, where he claimed six wickets in his first two Test outings and struck a gutsy 49 from No 11 in the series decider, Mahmood is part of a 12-man Lancashire squad that host Gloucestershire in the third round of County Championship fixtures starting on Thursday.

Jimmy Anderson, 39, also makes his first appearance of the summer for the Red Rose but Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Ollie Robinson (Sussex) and Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) continue to delay the start to their domestic seasons in the lead-up to the first Test against New Zealand that begins on 2 June.

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Meanwhile Kieron Pollard, the West Indies white-ball captain, has retired from all international cricket. Announcing his decision on social media, he said: “After careful deliberation I’ve today decided to retire from international cricket. I’m proud to have represented West Indies cricket for over 15 yeas in both the T20 and ODI forms of the game.”

Pollard, who is in India appearing for the IPL’s Mumbai Indians, played 123 ODIs and 101 T20 internationals for West Indies after making his ODI debut in April 2007 against South Africa.

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