Rehan Ahmed is in line to become England’s youngest ever cricketer on Saturday with Ben Stokes seriously considering calling him up for the conclusion of the series in Karachi.
Leicestershire’s 18-year-old legspinner Ahmed is likely to replace Will Jacks or Jack Leach as England look to give him a taste of Test cricket after he impressed in practice on tour.
Ahmed featured in just three first-class matches, making his only debut against Nottinghamshire in May before playing a further two Division Two Championship matches in September. He took nine wickets at 30 and was a late addition to the touring team.
On Thursday, he was one of the few players practicing at National Stadium while the others played golf. The final decision will be made on Friday when England study the surface of the National Stadium.
Jacks bowled just four overs in the second innings at Multan as England chased for victory and eight overs in the match. He, like Ahmed, is a work in progress as a spinner. Ahmed is seen as an all-rounder, his batting getting more attention in the Lions game England used as preparation for the tour than his bowling. He also scored 122 from 113 in registering his first hundred in the league, against Derbyshire in the last game of the season.
“Yeah, we’ve thought about it,” Stokes said when asked if Ahmed could play in Karachi. “When we talked about having Rehan in the team, it was more than just bringing him in and integrating him into the team. We said we’d have no problem selecting it if we felt it was the right option. I don’t think this is the case, if he were to play, to give away the caps. We picked him into the squad not only because of his talent but because we thought it would be a good opportunity for him to play if we felt it was necessary.”
If he plays Ahmed he will become England’s youngest cricketer at 18 years and 126 days (Saturday). Brian Close was 18 years and 149 days old when he was picked against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1949, just three months after making his first-class debut for Yorkshire.
“I’m struggling to figure out what he is, whether he’s a batsman or a leg spinner, which I think is good, because it shows how talented he is. We have snippets of what he can do with the bat in that short warm-up game, when he hit 30 out of 10 balls, or something like that. But having a player who turns your wrists is always exciting, especially for England, but it’s not getting too carried away with the potential that he has, because he’s just young and you still have to nurture the talent.”
Ahmed could be the only change, England remain with Ollie Pope as goalkeeper and regard the three stitchers who have played in Multan – James Anderson, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson – as their strongest attack. It will depend on how those three get back into shape after four days off with Jamie Overton standing by as the team’s backup sailor.
Foakes did not play at Rawalpindi due to illness and was ruled out at Multan entirely as England decided to pick the extra bowler and keep Pope as goalkeeper. He was much tidier behind the shackles in the second rehearsal, benefiting from his habit of the role. England likes team balance with seven bowling options on flat pitches and McCullum wants a final Test result which likely means bad news for Foakes, who if he doesn’t play here, will be back in contention in New Zealand in February.
Pakistan does not know which way to turn. They are considering a recall for ex-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, 35, to keep wicket having not played Test cricket for three years, allowing Mohammad Rizwan to play as a specialist batsman. Naseem Shah, the last remaining senior fast bowler, is injured and out of the series. Mohammad Wasim, 21, could make his debut in place of Mohammad Ali, who has looked short of pace and class at Test level.