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Pakistan v England 2022/23

Who is Rehan Ahmed, the precocious leggie who could become England’s youngest ever men’s Test cricketer?

Rehan Ahmed celebrates the wicket of Bilal Sami of Afghanistan during the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup Super League
by Katya Witney 3 minute read

18-year-old leg spinner Rehan Ahmed has been called up to the England Test squad ahead of their three-match series against Pakistan, and if he plays he will become England’s youngest-ever Test cricketer.

From nicking off Ben Stokes in the nets at 11 to scoring his maiden first-class century in his third match, it has been a meteoric rise.

T20I cricket and James Anderson’s Test career are just two examples of things that began before England’s latest Test squad member was born in August 2004.


After registering figures 0-73 off eight overs for England Lions in the warm-up clash with the Test match players, Ahmed will switch sides upon leaving Abu Dhabi to fly to Pakistan with Brendon McCullum’s squad. He now has three opportunities to break Brian Close’s record as England’s youngest Test cricketer, who made his debut in 1949 at 18 years and 149 days old.

Ahmed first came to England’s attention as an 11-year-old, serving as a net bowler, again to aid their Test preparations against Pakistan. It’s a combination both of Ahmed’s talent and England’s desperate relationship with leg-spin bowlers that Ahmed found himself bowling to Stokes at Lord’s a month before his 12th birthday.

As a young county second XI bowler looking to impress against the world’s best players who were more than twice his age, foxing two England captains was enough to generate the kind of buzz that follows players earmarked to stand out among their generation.

“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.”

Impression made, he was called back the following year to bowl to the West Indies ahead of their match against England, again at Lord’s. That occasion was followed by a bowling session with Shane Warne, perhaps the youngest current bowler to receive words of advice from the late legend.

Growing up in Nottingham, Ahmed is the middle of three cricket-mad brothers. Both of his siblings are on county books, with oldest Raheem having come through the Grace Road academy and younger brother Farhan playing for Nottinghamshire’s second XI this summer aged just 14. His father played cricket in Pakistan as a fast-bowling all-rounder before he came to the UK. The younger Ahmed initially tried to emulate his father’s skill as a fast bowler before taking up leg-spin owing to his height.

It’s a decision which has most certainly paid off. On his first assignment in England colours as part of the 2022 under-19 World Cup squad, Ahmed recovered from catching COVID-19 to play a memorable part in an all-time classic must-win encounter against Afghanistan. Coming on to bowl the penultimate over with Afghanistan needing 19 to win, he took three wickets in five balls, seeing England take victory by 15 runs.

Following his international success, Ahmed made his first-class debut for Leicestershire this summer, after leaving Nottinghamshire to join the Foxes in 2017. He failed to take a wicket on debut before taking four-for against Middlesex in his second outing two months later.

In-between those two appearances, Ahmed became one of the positives for Southern Brave to take out of a disappointing Hundred campaign. He took two wickets, including that of Faf du Plessis, in the Brave’s final match of their campaign against the Northern Superchargers – as well as scoring 33 off 29 balls batting at No.5. Selection for the franchise came after a successful T20 Blast campaign where he took 19 wickets at 20.15, showcasing the prodigious turn he can rip from his googly.

A crowning achievement came in the last throws of the domestic summer in Leicestershire’s last game of the County Championship against Derbyshire where Ahmed became the first-ever Leicestershire played to score his debut hundred and take his debut five-for in the same first-class match, scoring a 122 off 113 balls in his third first-class appearance.

So, how realistic is it that Ahmed’s impressive CV is enough for a Test debut in Pakistan?

“We know he’s not the finished article and has raw potential,” said McCullum on Ahmed’s selection. “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.”

England have opted to go batting heavy in their second spinner options, with both Will Jacks and Liam Livingstone the other two competitors for the second choice spin spot. It will depend on what type of variation Stokes and McCullum want in their lineup as well as how they view Ahmed’s role on this tour.

Nevertheless, if England viewed him as a drinks carrier or the tour as purely an exercise in experience, they could have kept Ahmed with the squad without naming him as part of it. His inclusion leaves the door open for a playing role, and if a lack of wickets from the spinners in the early part of the series emerges as a problem, a leg-spinner with a record of rising to the occasion may become an attractive option.

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