Shadab Khan lived up to the expectations of the selectors on day one of their second tour game against Northamptonshire, as the leggy ripped apart the hosts with the figures of 6/77.
When Pakistan announced their squad for the tour of Ireland and England, much of the talk had surrounded Fawad Alam, and to a certain extent Wahab Riaz – Pakistan’s second highest wicket-taker in the longest format since 2014, with only Yasir Shah ahead of him.
Yasir was ruled out weeks before the announcement of the squad – depriving Pakistan of their premier spinner. The selection of Shadab Khan was inevitable, even in the presence of Yasir. But him being the lone spinner in the 16-man squad put Shadab in focus.
Shadab played his maiden first-class game (8th overall) in England against Kent, which was rained out for half of the span. Shadab got two wickets in 18 overs he bowled in conditions that were described alien by Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood.
In their second tour game, however, Shadab lived up to the expectations, spinning out an experienced Northants side.
After a decent opening partnership, Rahat Ali trapped Ben Duckett in-front while Luke Procter was run out by Haris Sohail.
Opener Rob Newton and former Proteas international Richard Levi added 63 for the third wicket partnership before Shadab Khan ripped apart the Northants middle order. Levi, who was trapped in front for 31, became Shadab’s first scalp of the day.
An over later, Shadab removed well-settled Newton, with Sarafraz grasping a feather.
He then bowled Josh Cobb for 7 before trapping Rob Keogh in-front for a duck.
Shadab had to wait till the 69th over of the day to claim his five-for. He bowled Ricardo Vasconcelos to achieve the feet. For the third time in the day, Shadab struck in consecutive overs, this time removing a well-set Rossington, courtesy stumping from Sarfraz.
Northants were bowled out for 259.
“It’s good for us; it’s a good preparation ahead of the Test matches. The conditions here are totally different from Pakistan where it’s summer, and these games will help us adjust to the conditions before Test,” Shadab told media after day one.
“The conditions aren’t suitable for a spinner; the outfield is slow as well. I have been practising a lot to adjust.
“We will try to chase down this target tomorrow and get a maximum lead.”
Pakistan resume day 2 of their second first-class game at 6/0 with Azhar Ali partnering with uncapped Imam-ul-Haq, who impressed at Kent with his gritty knock of 61.
Although conditions are likely to suit the pace bowlers in both Ireland and England, given how sharp-turning leg-spin is not something most batsmen in either England or Ireland encounter on a regular basis, Shadab is likely to add to his lone Test cap in the absence of Yasir Shah.
Pakistan play one Test against Ireland starting May 11 (also Ireland’s debut game in the five-day format) before two Tests against England.