Pakistan 6 for 0 trail Northamptonshire 259 (Rossington 90, Shadab 6-77) by 253 runs
One of Pakistan’s main concerns as they flew to the United Kingdom was how to replace their strike bowler, legspinner Yasir Shah. He was the top wicket-taker in their past two Test series and against England on the previous tour in 2016 but was ruled out of the upcoming Tests with a hip injury. Shadab Khan‘s career-best 6 for 77 on the first day of the second tour match at Northampton gave further evidence that the role may be covered.
Shadab, just 19 years old, has become a Pakistan prodigy. This is only his ninth first-class match but he already has a Test debut behind him – in Barbados a year ago – having risen to prominence in T20 cricket at the Pakistan Super League and subsequently for the Trinbago Knight Riders and Brisbane Heat.
His greatest asset is generating significant turn and on a decent first day Wantage Road pitch, he found plenty of it to plunge Northamptonshire from 104 for 2 to 143 for 6 after lunch before returning to complete just a second first-class five-wicket haul after his 5 for 82 for Pakistan A in 2016.
After a series of big-turning legbreaks, two balls that skidded on trapped Richard Levi and Rob Keogh lbw. Rob Newton was caught behind trying to cut a ball not short enough to do so. The most eye-catching of his dismissals, however, was a googly that Josh Cobb simply did not pick, shouldered arms to, and lost his off stump.
And after Adam Rossington and Ricardo Vasconcelos compiled a smart stand of 80 for the eighth wicket to revive Northants, a classic legbreak turned sharply inside Vasconcelos’ drive and Rossington was lured down the pitch to be stumped.
Pakistan were weighing up whether to include a specialist spinner for the Tests against Ireland and England – where seam-bowling conditions are likely to prevail – but a bowler so alien to UK-based players is a unique weapon and Shadab couldn’t have made a stronger case here.
He initially began a little short as Newton and Levi were able to play him off the back foot but in his second over after lunch, he removed Levi to begin a memorable spell and one that could lead to a second Test cap in Malahide next week.
Rossington and Vasconcelos – on his Northants debut – were the only batsmen to figure out how to survive against him as Northants – almost certainly – fell short of a par total.
Rossington took two calculated risks, skipping down to lift sixes over long-on, but otherwise was content to largely play with the spin to take runs through the covers. He made a spirited fifty in the second innings against Warwickshire in Northants’ previous County Championship match. As he began to pull with authority after passing fifty in 65 balls – there was a notable short-arm jab off Faheem Ashraf – he looked set for a first century of the summer. But he lost his longest partner at a bad time and fell 10 short.
Vasconcelos, South African but a Portuguese passport holder, shaped up very smartly on his first appearance for his new club – indeed perhaps an entirely new phase of his career. He was organised in defence, played with confidence to turn runs square of the wicket but undid his graft until that point with a lavish cover drive.
Earlier, Pakistan’s seamers were a touch inconsistent. Rahat Ali picked up the opening wicket of the day with a ball that nipped back to trap Ben Duckett lbw. His second wicket was Steven Crook caught at third man top-edging a cut. Fellow left-armer Mohammad Amir, back in the UK after his stint with Essex last season, was used in short bursts without success and Mohammad Abbas, signed by Leicestershire this summer, beat Newton regularly but also went wicketless, leaving Shadab to ensure a good first day for the tourists.