Rehan Ahmed wore a smile as wide as the Arabian Sea as he walked off the pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi and declared it “the best day of my life”. On a tour of Pakistan already dripping in history, Ahmed’s debut continued the theme when, aged 18 years and 126 days, he broke Brian Close’s record (18yrs & 149d against New Zealand in 1949) to become England’s youngest men’s Test cricketer.
But Leicestershire’s leg-spinning all-rounder, playing in just his fourth first-class match, was not done there: his crucial removals of Saud Shakheel and Faheem Ashraf either side of tea on day one of the third Test, amid figures of two for 89 from 22 overs, underlined the potential Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have seen.
Ahmed said: “I didn’t expect to play. I just came on this tour to get better but they’ve given me a chance to play. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I was very nervous before the first ball but the whole day was good. I mean, I couldn’t ask for more, it’s the biggest blessing sent down to me, to play at such a young age. It’s probably the best day of my life.”
Ahmed’s father, Naeem, was born in Azad Kashmir and was among the England huddle when Nasser Hussain conducted the cap presentation before the toss. The former England captain addressed Naeem first, saying: “The pride you must have in your heart watching your 18 year old son playing cricket in the National Stadium, Karachi, is incomparable.”
Speaking to BBC Test Match Special at lunch, Naeem Ahmed said: “I really enjoyed it and I still can’t believe it myself: I’m watching my son on debut in a Test match at the age of 18. He worked really hard when he was young so I really do believe he can do something special for England. He is very confident and he has got maturity with such a young age.”
Ahmed’s performance, which began with an understandably nervous first spell in the morning before flowering after lunch, also drew praise from Pakistan’s head coach, Saqlain Mushtaq, who noted the wrist-spinner’s confidence during a battle with Babar Azam.
Saqlain, who claimed 496 international wickets for Pakistan during an eight-year career, said: “I really like his control, and the most important thing is his confidence. The first game, the way he started his first over, he showed a wrong ’un one and that was brilliant.
“The way he bowled certain deliveries makes me think there’s something about him. I see a bright future ahead for him. He plays for England, but his Pakistani roots make me very proud.”