REHAN AHMED is the sort of cricketer that Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum love.
He bowls wrist-spin, bats aggressively, has confidence and talent and is young. So young, in fact, that he was born two years after Jimmy Anderson started his England career.
Ahmed became England’s youngest-ever cricketer, aged just 18 years and 126 days, when chosen by Stokes for the Third Test against Pakistan, which starts tomorrow morning.
His rise has been meteoric and he could be one of the final pieces in the Bazball jigsaw.
For years, England have been searching for a mystery spinner, a man who can turn the ball both ways. They have the solid and reliable Jack Leach but Ahmed could potentially add an extra dimension to their attack.
What’s more, Ahmed can bat – and he scored 122 off 113 balls for Leicestershire against Derbyshire in one of just six first-class innings before his Test debut. Ahmed considers his batting better than hi bowling.
Stokes said: “It’s a good opportunity for us not only to look at him but also for him to experience what it’s like to play international cricket.
“We’ve been very impressed by what we’ve seen. He has a lot of skill with both bat and ball. It’s great to be able to bring in someone with his talent and let’s see how he goes.
“He loves cricket. I’m struggling to work out whether he’s a batter or a leg-spinner, which shows how much talent he has. We saw snippets of what he can do in that warm-up game in Abu Dhabi last month, when he got 26 off ten balls.
“It’s great to see someone with so much freedom. The way he bats, he likes to get on with it – not show off but show what he can do.
“He has a vast array of shots and having a wrist-spinner is great, especially in these conditions. He was very excited when we gave him the nod.”
Ahmed was born on August 13, 2004, a day when Jimmy Anderson was playing in a Test match against West Indies at Old Trafford.
At the age of 12, he was invited to an England nets session at Trent Bridge and, legend has it, dismissed both Stokes and Sir Alastair Cook.
At 13, the late Shane Warne tipped him for great things. Earlier this year, he impressed in England’s passage to the under-19 World Cup final.
Ahmed was not among the original party for the Pakistan tour but was added during the training camp in Abu Dhabi.
For the Third Test, Ahmed replaced Will Jacks, who himself took six wickets on his debut in the First Test, and broke the record of Brian Close, who was 18 years and 149 days when he played against New Zealand in 1949.
Close later captained England – and was sacked for disciplinary reasons – and was recalled in 1976 at the age of 45. Altogether, he played just 22 Tests.
Ahmed will make his debut after bowling just 446 balls – that’s fewer than 75 overs – in his first-class career.
He does not believe he will be fazed, insisting before the tour: “In cricket, and in sport, you’re going to have ups and downs so, when your times comes, your time comes.
“I want to play Test cricket for England, it’s the pinnacle, my dream since I was young. I say to every captain I play for – I’m always ready.”
Regular wicketkeeper Ben Foakes returned for Jimmy Anderson as the only other change from the Second Test win. Stokes said Anderson was being rested to make sure there was no injury risk before the tour of New Zealand in February.
Former captain Azhar Ali announced the Third Test will be his last. Only four Pakistan batsmen have scored more than his 19 Test centuries.
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