England cricket fans watched on with interest in Karachi as the country’s selectors handed Rehan Ahmed his Test debut in the third and final Test with Pakistan. It was only Ahmed’s fourth first-class game, which underlined his inexperience. Nevertheless, there is a reason why England selected Ahmed to become their youngest ever debutant – his precocious leg spin talent.
The son of former cricketer, Naeem, Ahmed came through the Nottinghamshire county setup, but was lured to Leicestershire in 2017. Ahmed’s potential had been spotted by the MCG and the England youth hierarchy. He was invited to bowl at the England and West Indies Test teams during a net session at Lord’s. During which, Ahmed would go on to bowl the now-England captain, Ben Stokes.
From the One-Day Cup to the U19 Cricket World Cup final
2021 was a big year for Ahmed. He would be selected by Leicestershire to represent them in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He had spent time with the County Select XI squad to face India and his performances earned him a call-up to the 2022 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. He played four of England’s six games, taking a dozen wickets en-route to a final defeat to India.
Ahmed’s role in England’s U19 World Cup final success saw him acquired for The Hundred, with Southern Brave paying £50,000 to have him in their 2022 squad. The Hundred is one of the most fascinating short-ball forms of the game and Ahmed has the variety to shine on the white ball stage as well as the red ball scene. It won’t be long until Ahmed attracts the attention of franchises within the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The IPL attracts many of cricket’s stars each season, including icons like Chris Gayle. It’s unsurprisingly one of the most popular sports betting markets, with coverage across run lines, match winners and more creative offerings like the method of a batter’s dismissal. The razzamatazz of the IPL demands cricketers that have the charisma and the versatility to thrive in the heat of battle and Ahmed appears to have this in spades.
He’s proven to be a dab hand with the bat already at first-class level. In the four first-class games he’s played for Leicestershire, he’s already managed a century and is batting at an average of 25.75.
Ahmed’s England Test breakthrough in Karachi
The call-up to the England senior Test squad was a surprise given his lack of time in the middle with a bat or ball in hand. However, with the Test series already sealed in Multan, England had the luxury of giving Ahmed a virtual free hit in the dead rubber of a third Test. In Pakistan’s first innings, Ahmed was given 22 overs and went at an economy rate of just over four runs an over. Combine that with two wickets, including a smart catch at short leg from Ollie Pope, and Ahmed’s Test career was very much up and running.
It was the second innings where Ahmed would really come into his own. England off spinner, Jack Leach, ripped through the top order of the Pakistan batting line-up, before captain Stokes decided to let Ahmed off the leash at the middle order. He removed Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, as well as Shakeel, both of whom were well-set and had faced over 100 balls. He then removed Rizwan and Agha to leave Pakistan with a slender lead of 166. Ahmed became the youngest ever player to take a five-wicket haul on Test debut.
As England set about blasting their way to their 167 required total, Ahmed was then promoted to bat third. He set about in explosive fashion, bludgeoning ten runs in eight deliveries, including two boundaries. Ahmed was then bowled by Abrar, but by then the tone had been set for Ben Duckett and Ben Stokes to finish the job and seal a record-breaking whitewash series victory for England in Pakistan. It’s the second whitewash test series victory this year, after their hammering of New Zealand on British soil.
England’s Test hierarchy will be keen to keep Ahmed under wraps and protect him from the media glare. Ahmed is by no means the finished article. As with most young leg spinners, finding a consistent length can still be an issue for Ahmed but, when he finds his rhythm, he is exceedingly destructive and a potential game-changer for the England side in all forms of the sport for years to come.