London - Shadab Khan took six wickets on the first day of Pakistan’s four-day warm-up fixture against Northamptonshire in England.

The 19-year-old leg-spinner, who has just one Test to his name – against West Indies in Barbados last year – ripped out numbers one, four, five, six, seven and nine to register figures of 6/77 off 19 overs as the host county’s middle-order was decimated. They were eventually bowled out for 259 from 73.4 overs. Shadab, who only made his first-class debut in 2016, was also involved in effecting a run out for the second wicket, after Northamptinshire won the toss and elected to bat. 

Pakistan’s cricket is heading in the right direction under the all-format captaincy of their robust keeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed and their international coaching staff led by Micky Arthur. By the end of their four-day game against Northamptonshire, the first tourists of this season should be equipped to beat Ireland in their inaugural Test, starting in Dublin on Friday, if not England in the subsequent two-Test series.

Unwonted stability has been fundamental in Pakistan’s revival, unlike the turbulent years when every month would bring a new captain, or a change of board, or a match-fixing scandal. International cricket, if not yet a Test, has returned to Lahore and Karachi; Pakistan top the ICC T20 rankings, which may or may not say something about the IPL in which they do not participate; and in 50-over cricket they came from nowhere to win the Champions Trophy last summer.

The tourists’ weak spot is that they have played very little Test cricket of late - only two Tests in the past 12 months, none in this calendar year - and have only four players of any seniority in this format. The two veterans of Pakistan’s last tour of England in 2016 have retired - Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain who made a match-winning innings at Lord’s, and Younus Khan who made a match-winning double-century at the Oval - so their top six will contain too many batsmen unversed in Test cricket, let alone in English conditions.

But there is a lot to be said for skilful youth and Pakistan unveiled one in the course of dismissing Northants for 259. He is the wrist-spinner Shadab Khan, who looks slightly older than his 19 years, and who took six wickets for 77 in only his ninth first-class game, and celebrated his fifth by prostrating and touching the square with his forehead.

Yasir Shah, Pakistan’s match-winning bowler at Lord’s and the Oval on their last tour, has a groin strain so Shadab has been selected as the tourists’ specialist spinner for this tour, their only one. But he is a good one alright, and has all the tricks, using the legbreak more than Shah who drives batsmen back with over-spin, though nobody could match Shah’s astounding record of 165 wickets in 28 Tests. Only the all-time greats, and 19th century bowlers on uncovered pitches, have averaged more than five wickets a Test. Shadab took only one wicket before lunch, and that was because he did not bowl, but threw out Luke Procter from point with a direct hit.

 Between lunch and tea he bowled continuously from the pavilion end, taking four wickets for 70 from 15 overs, and he was only expensive because he pitched too short before he had warmed up and because Adam Rossington enjoyed the short boundary at long-on. After tea, in consecutive overs, he bowled the left-handed debutant, Ricardo Vasconcelos, through the gate and lured Rossington down the pitch to have him stumped for 90.

The sub-text was that a truly skilful young spinner can succeed at red- and white-ball cricket. It was the classical flighted legbreak that dismissed Rossington, yet Shadab first made a name for himself in the 50-over Champions Trophy and has landed T20 contracts in Australia’s Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League.

What Pakistan’s bowling lacks is a fast bowler who can bang the ball in on flat pitches and force batsmen to play back. Mohammad Amir is one of their four senior Test players, along with Sarfraz and the batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, and he bowled waspishly if not with so much swing as he had before his five-year ban, but Mohammad Abbas is skiddy and full-length while Rahat Ali pitches the ball up to swing it. At Dublin, Lord’s and Headingley, the Pakistanis will no doubt want overhead conditions to favour them.

 

Scoreboard

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE 1ST INNINGS:

RI Newton c Sarfraz b Shadab Khan    35

BM Duckett lbw b Rahat Ali     26

LA Procter run out       1

RE Levi lbw b Shadab Khan     31

AM Rossington st Sarfraz b Shadab      90

JJ Cobb b Shadab Khan           7

RI Keogh lbw b Shadab Khan  0

SP Crook c Faheem b Rahat Ali           10

R Vasconcelos b Shadab Khan 30

BA Hutton b Haris Sohail         8

G Wade not out            1

 

EXTRAS: (b 4, lb 12, nb 4)      20

 

TOTAL: (all out, 73.4 overs)    259

 

FOW: 1-36, 2-41, 3-104, 4-105, 5-132, 6-143, 7-168, 8-248, 9-249, 10-259.

 

BOWLING: M Aamir 13-3-40-0, M Abbas 13-2-34-0, Rahat Ali 10-4-25-2, Faheem Ashraf 13-3-50-0, Shadab Khan 19-1-77-6, Asad Shafiq 1-0-1-0, Haris Sohail 4.4-0-16-1.

PAKISTAN 1ST INNINGS:

Azhar Ali not out          3

Imam-ul-Haq not out    3

 

EXTRAS: 0

TOTAL: (0 wkt, 4.3 overs)      6

BOWLING: BA Hutton 2.3-2-2-0, G Wade 2-0-4-0.

TOSS: Northamptonshire