News Item in ABC Net, 24 June 2023, …. with highlighting imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi
England’s daring call-up for teenage spinner Rehan Ahmed would have brought a ‘told you so’ smile to the face of the late, great Shane Warne.
- Ahmed made his Test debut against Pakistan as an 18-year-old, taking seven wickets
- He has been brought into the squad as back up for Moeen Ali, who is battling hand blisters
- If he was selected for the next Test, he would be the youngest Ashes player since 1877
The Australian legend first watched leg spinner Ahmed in action in the Lord’s nets when the much-touted kid was just 13, and was left so impressed that he told the youngster he was sure he’d be playing first-class cricket at 15.
Warne, as it turned out, was just a year out in that prediction, but Ahmed soon went on to prove the great man’s assessment spot on when he became the youngest man to play Test cricket for England against Pakistan in December, earning his cap 126 days after his 18th birthday.
Now, after that striking seven-wicket debut in Karachi, Ahmed has been drafted in to the squad for the second Test at Lord’s as cover for Moeen Ali, who’s struggling with a blistered spinning finger — and it’s possible he could become the youngest player to feature in the Ashes since 1877.
Aussie all-rounder Tom Garrett was younger at 18 when he played in his home Ashes in Melbourne in 1877, but should he feature at Lord’s, Ahmed would surpass Brian Close, who was 19 in Melbourne in 1950, as the youngest Englishman ever in the series.
It still feels a long shot. Moeen, twice Ahmed’s age at 36, will definitely play if he’s fit, with team medics monitoring him closely.
They’re still hopeful he will be ready despite the painful nature of his Birmingham finger injury, which meant he could only play a bowling bit part in Australia’s second innings as the visitors squeezed to victory by two wickets.
But Ahmed’s selection ahead of other possible stand-ins, like Surrey’s Will Jacks and Hampshire’s Liam Dawson, is a striking show of faith in the teen, who’s had a mediocre season, only taking six wickets for Leicestershire at an average of 67.66 while also going at four runs an over.
But England evidently felt Ahmed’s wrist-spin offered something different, and they’ve invited him to join up with the squad in London over the weekend.
Ahmed still believes that meeting with Warne was a “changing point” in his life as the Australian told him: “‘That’s awesome man, really, really good. I will be keeping a close eye on you, I think we will be commentating on you very soon.”
“The first time I met Shane Warne, it just made me want to do it more,” Ahmed said.