England has added teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed into its Test squad for December’s tour of Pakistan, putting the 18-year-old within touching distance of becoming the country’s youngest men’s Test cricketer in history.
Ahmed, originally due to travel to Pakistan as a net bowler, was officially drafted into the squad on Wednesday despite playing just three first-class matches.
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The young all-rounder, who grew up in Nottingham, made his County Championship debut for Leicestershire in May, turning heads a few months later by scoring 122 and taking 5/114 in the same match against Derbyshire.
He also enjoyed a successful T20 Blast campaign with Leicestershire, snaring 19 wickets at 20.15 in 14 matches.
If Ahmad makes his international debut in Pakistan next month, he’ll become England’s youngest men’s Test cricketer, a record currently held by all-rounder Brian Close, who was 18 years and 149 days old when he made his Test debut against New Zealand in 1949.
Ahmed was born in August 2004, more than 12 months after James Anderson’s Test debut. The pair could become teammates in the next few weeks.
“We know he’s not the finished article and has raw potential,” England Test coach Brendon McCullum said.
“But Ben (Stokes), myself and the rest of the coaches like how he approaches his game. The experience of being part of the squad in Pakistan will be hugely beneficial for him, and he will add to the make-up of our squad.”
Ahmed’s most dangerous weapon is undeniably his googly — six years ago, he dismissed England captains Ben Stokes and Alasdair Cook in a net session at Lord’s when he was 11.
“I bowled Ben Stokes a couple of leg spinners and a googly and he snicked off,” Ahmed told ESPNcricinfo earlier this year.
“He wasn’t the happiest so I didn’t celebrate … I just took the ball and walked back to my mark.
“But when I snicked off Alastair Cook, that was a bit more like it. He wasn’t as bothered. But I didn’t celebrate because he’s probably the best player in Test cricket. So I was just lucky to do that.”
The following summer, Ahmed was mentored by the late Shane Warne in a net session, with footage of their encounter going viral on Thursday.
“I’m going to keep a close eye on you,” the Australian cricket legend said in the video.
“I think we’ll be commenting on you very soon.
“I think you could be playing first-class cricket by the age of 15.”
Warne’s prediction wasn’t far off — Ahmed made his List A debut for Leicestershire as a 16-year-old.
Ahmed represented England at this year’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, taking 12 scalps in four matches to finish as the tournament’s sixth-highest wicket-taker.
In the semi-final against Afghanistan, he took three wickets in the penultimate over to help England secure a 15-run victory and book their spot in the final.
Ahmed has taken 24 wickets in 13 one-day matches for England’s Under-19 side, boasting an economy rate of 3.87.
During this week’s warm-up match between England and the Lions, the tweaker smacked 26 from just 10 balls, including two sixes and three fours, and sent down eight wicketless overs for 73 runs.
Despite only bowling 446 deliveries in first-class cricket to date, Ahmed could be plying his trade at Test level next month.
“Personally I feel mentally ready,’ Ahmed told The Daily Mail this week.
“James Anderson is going to be on the tour, so that’s just mental. He’s played international cricket longer than I’ve been alive. It’s crazy.
“But I am trying to stay in the present, not thinking too far ahead, and I never do. I will keep trying to train my best in Dubai and hopefully if they take me along to train with them, great, if not I will come back and train with Leicester.’”
Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq tweeted: “He caught my attention when we met in England seven years ago. It was a joy to watch him outperform his peers with his googly about him. Congrats @RehanAhmed__16 and your family. I am really happy to see your progress.”
The first Test between Pakistan and England gets underway at Pindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday, with the first ball scheduled for 4pm AEDT.