Rehan Ahmed called up to England squad for second Ashes Test at Lord’s

Rehan Ahmed called up to England squad for second Ashes Test at Lord’s

England have called up 18-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, with concerns lingering over Moeen Ali’s injured finger.

Ahmed became the youngest man to play Test cricket for England when he was picked to take on Pakistan in December, earning his cap 126 days after his 18th birthday.

He went on to break the equivalent records in the T20 and ODI formats and could add the title of England’s youngest ever player in a men’s Ashes, eclipsing Brian Close’s appearance at Melbourne in 1950.

Ahmed made an eye-catching debut in Karachi, taking seven wickets in the match and five for 48 in the second innings, and will join Ben Stokes’ side this weekend as cover for Moeen.

The decision represents a typically bold gambit from the current England regime, with Ahmed’s raw ability over-riding a quiet start to the season with Leicestershire.

He has taken a modest six wickets in seven in Division Two of the LV= County Championship, with an average of 67.66 and an economy rate of 4.01.

There is every chance he will not be in the side against Australia on Wednesday, with Moeen still hopeful of being passed fit and the possibility of England playing a four-man seam attack augmented by Joe Root’s off-breaks. But his promotion to the squad represents a further reminder of England’s fearlessness.

Having fast-tracked him from the England Lions after just three first-class games, they did not shrink from throwing him into the side in Karachi and even asked him to bat at number three in the so-called ‘nighthawk’ role during the fourth-innings chase. He hit two fours in a brief but entertaining stay and has hit four half-centuries for the Foxes this summer.

Moeen Ali receives treatment
Moeen Ali struggled with a finger problem at Edgbaston (Mike Egerton/PA).

Moeen, who is twice Ahmed’s age at 36, struggled throughout the two-wicket defeat at Edgbaston due to a burst blister on his right index figure.

The wound will continue to be monitored over the coming days as England’s medical staff attempt to get him ready to go again but, after two years away from first-class cricket, a recurrence cannot be ruled out.

That left the selectors seeking a potential stand-in, with Ahmed edging out the likes of Surrey’s Will Jacks, and Hampshire’s Liam Dawson to get the nod.

Jacks, who also made his debut in the Pakistan series, showed off his ‘Bazball’ credentials with the bat in Thursday’s Vitality Blast clash against Middlesex as he hammered five sixes in an over to make 96 in 45 balls, but his off-spin remains a work in progress. He went for 30 off three overs in the same game and has just two first-class wickets this season.

Slow left-armer Dawson is arguably the most reliable available option but played the last of his three Tests in 2017.

In the end, the allure of Ahmed’s wrist-spin won the day and he will link up with the squad in London over the weekend.

It was at Lord’s that Ahmed’s name first came to wider attention at the age of just 11. Invited by the MCC’s head of cricket Steve Kirby to bowl at England’s Test team while still of primary school age, he dismissed the country’s record run-scorer Sir Alastair Cook and his own future captain, Stokes.

By 13, he had the chance to the show his skills in front of the greatest wrist-spinner the game has seen, leaving the late Shane Warne marvelling at him and promising to keep tabs on his progress.