Not that one would ever think it to watch him, but as the latest in a long line of brilliant Pakistani leg-spinners, Shadab Khan carries the weight of history on his shoulders.

Still a few months shy of his 20th birthday, Shadab is in the developmental stage of his career. But if his performances in a Pakistan shirt are anything to go by, he is not just on the verge of assuming the mantle of the injured Yasir Shah and, further back, Mushtaq Ahmed, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Qadir – he is virtually there already.

Perhaps that’s a premature call about a cricketer who has played just 34 international matches. But the preternaturally mature way he approached his role as Pakistan’s premier spinner during the ICC Champions Trophy last June – a tournament in which Pakistan emerged from nowhere to clinch the title – suggests that Shadab has the temperament and self-belief to deal with the biggest stages the game can offer.

He certainly has the game. Though relatively tall and willowy, he maintains a Warne-like round-arm approach that creates considerable side-spin, combined with a bouncy gather in delivery stride that evokes Mushtaq Ahmed, and a googly that, while not yet as devilish as Mushtaq’s, has already delivered him success on the international stage.

He is also a very useful lower-order batsman who already has three ODI fifties to his name from just seven completed innings, and a portfolio of catches predominantly from the backward-point region to adorn any highlights reel.

He now finds himself in the engine room of Pakistan’s post-Misbah Test team. His performances so far on this tour, where Pakistan will face Ireland in their inaugural Test match on May 18 before two Tests in England at Lord’s and Headingley, suggest he is ready to shoulder that burden and thrive in conditions that traditionally challenge the very best spinners in the game.

England in May is more the domain of nagging seamers than exotic twirlers but Shadab was too good for Northants in Pakistan’s final run-out before the team heads to Dublin and a date with history.

On day one Shadab was irresistible, taking 6/77 in 19 overs, reducing Northants from 104/2 to 143/6 after lunch. His top-spinner to Northants’ Josh Cobb, which Cobb chose to leave alone only to see it shatter into his off-stump, may have been the highlight, but it was his control of length that will have most pleased Pakistan’s think-tank. With a career economy rate in ODI cricket of under five runs per over from 17 matches, keeping things tight is Shadab’s specialty; now in just his ninth first-class match, Shadab has shown that he can combine the lot.

After six wickets in the first innings, he duly completed a maiden 10-for in a first-class match with four more scalps in the second, setting up a chase of 134 which Pakistan duly completed by nine wickets as Imam ul-Haq and Haris Sohail helped themselves to unbeaten fifties, following Asad Shafiq’s superb 186* in the first innings.

Ireland is first up, after which it’s Lord’s, where Pakistani leggies have traditionally enjoyed themselves. In 1982, Abdul Qadir was unplayable en route to picking up four wickets in the first innings, setting up a 10-wicket victory; while a decade later, Mushtaq himself took 5/89 across the two innings as Pakistan stole a famous win by two wickets.

Pakistan cricket is in many ways defined by its wrist spinners, their sense of unpredictability and daring serving as the perfect embodiment of the region’s cricketing culture. Shadab will know, as he walks out at Lord’s, that he is in the company of greatness. It’s unlikely to faze him in the slightest.–Courtesy ICC