Abrar's stunning debut

December 18, 2022

The young leg-spinner was a rare silver lining for Pakistan as they lost back-to-back Tests against England in Rawalpindi and Multan

Abrars stunning debut

Pakistan not only lost the second Test in Multan but also the series against England last week. The hosts lost both the Tests even as victory seemed just a few steps away. On both the occasions their batting let down the fans and surrendered against England's spinners and pacers in Rawalpindi and Multan.

The positive aspect for the second Test was the discovery of mystery leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed. The young spinner destroyed the English batting lineup with his leg-breaks and googlies. He countered England's aggression with flight, flicks of the wrist and clicks of his fingers.

The 24-year-old Abrar took a sensational 7-114 haul on debut, the best figures by any spinner on Test debut in 14 years. He is the 13th Pakistan bowler to take a five-wicket haul on his Test debut while overall he is the 22nd bowler in men's Tests to take seven wickets or more in an innings on debut.

All first seven wickets of England were taken by the young spinner and he was on the card to become the first bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings on Test debut, but another spinner Zahid Mahmood bagged the last three wickets to keep him away from a unique record. Abrar finished his first Test with an admirable figure of 11-234, averaging 21.27.

The second innings in the Multan Test was the first occasion after 2014 when all ten wickets were taken by the spinners. Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar and Mohammad Hafeez shared ten wickets against Australia during the fourth innings of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Test. It was also the first instance in Pakistan since 1987, where all ten wickets fell to spinners in an innings.

Only two Pakistani bowlers have taken a seven-wicket haul on Test debut before Abrar Ahmed. Off-spinner Mohammad Nazir had picked 7-99 on his debut against New Zealand in 1969, while fast bowler Mohammad Zahid bettered those figures with 7-66 also against New Zealand in 1996.

Abrar is the first bowler to complete a five-wicket haul in the opening session on Test debut after Alf Valentine of West Indies against England in 1950 in Manchester.

Abrar took each of the first seven wickets to fall in England's first innings. The only other bowler to achieve this feat on his Test debut was Valentine in 1950. He picked up each of the first eight England wickets to fall in the first innings.

Abrar is the second Pakistan bowler after former great off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to have taken seven wickets of the top seven batters in a debut Test innings. Saqlain Mushtaq, the current Pakistan head coach, had each of England's top eight batters in the first innings of the 2000 Lahore Test. No player in Test history has sent back the opposition's top seven in an innings on debut before that.

One day, while returning home from a tape ball match, he heard about a cricket trial at Rashid Latif's academy. Muhammad Masroor, who was Pakistan's U-19 coach, was overseeing the trials and was left awestruck with his variations.

Masroor, was also a fielding coach with Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Karachi Kings, sent his videos to Rashid Latif, who was director of cricket at the franchise and in 2017, Abrar became one of the emerging picks for Karachi in the PSL.

Abrar made his T20 debut for Karachi Kings in February 2017 edition in the Pakistan Super League. In his T20 short career he has taken 19 wickets in 17 appearances, averaging 25.31 with a best performance of 3-14.

He played only two games in the PSL and remained wicketless but impressed everyone with his brilliant spell against Peshawar Zalmi. Eoin Morgan smashed a 57-ball 80, and against him, Abrar bowled 16 balls and gave away only 17 runs, including seven dots.

After the PSL, Abrar suffered a stage-five stress fracture and was out of action for two years.

Abrar, who is also famous for his nickname Harry Potter, played only tape-ball cricket as a youngster, he exploded onto the scene once getting a hard ball in his hands and took 53 wickets in an under-19 season in Karachi in 2016.

He played his maiden first-class match in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Sindh against Southern Punjab in November 2020.

He immediately proved his skills, taking 43 wickets in the season, the most by any bowler, with five five-wicket hauls and a ten-for. The right-arm spinner won the best bowler of the tournament award. His performance had kept Mahmood out of the Sindh side.

Abrar currently has taken 87 wickets in 28 first-class innings at an average of 25.02 with best match figures of 11-63.

"At the start of my career, I used to be a complete mystery spinner, but I've focused more on my leg spin of late. My grip makes it seem like I'm a mystery spinner, but I like to play around with the grip of the ball and the way I hold it on the seam," Abrar explained about his technique.

Five years ago, Mushtaq Ahmed, the then head coach of Pakistan's National Cricket Academy in Lahore, asked the 19-year-old Abrar Ahmed "Do you know who Abdul Qadir is? Surprisingly, Abrar came back with the reply "who is he, never heard his name."

Everyone who were there started laughing, Mushtaq told him 'you've registered yourself as a leg-spinner and you don't know about the greatest leg-spinner we ever produced.'

Abrar's coach Muhammad Masroor defended his ward. "Not his fault; he has idolised Sunil Narine all his life. You can't blame him for not knowing the great Abdul Qadir."

It is just a beginning for the young spinner, after sometime, Abrar could be a match winner for Pakistan like Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal in the past.


Abrar's stunning debut