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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ali Martin in Karachi

Ben Stokes aims for Pakistan clean sweep and ponders Rehan Ahmed debut

Rehan Ahmed bowls in the nets for England in Karachi
Rehan Ahmed bowls in the nets for England in Karachi. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Ben Stokes has challenged his England players to turn their tour of Pakistan into a historic clean sweep as he and Brendon McCullum ponder a debut for the 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed.

Sitting 2-0 up with one Test to play going into the final instalment that starts in Karachi on Saturday – and on a run of eight wins from their past nine matches – England could become the first visitors to the country to record three Test victories in a series.

Citing the example of England’s 3-0 win in Sri Lanka in 2018, Stokes said: “We won that series before the last Test and there was even more put on to it, knowing that we could become the only English team to register a whitewash in Sri Lanka.

“So although the series here is done and we’ll still lift the trophy at the end regardless of the result, there’s still an extra bit knowing that we could be one of the very few teams that could walk away from Pakistan with a whitewash series.

“We’ve got some big challenges after the new year, with a tour of New Zealand and then the big one with the Ashes. But 2022 has been one to look back on with very good memories. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

England’s dominant position this week brings with it the possibility of handing Ahmed his first Test cap, a move which would make the leg-spinner – 18 years and 126 days old on day one – England’s youngest Test cricketer, breaking the record held by Brian Close (18 years and 149 days against New Zealand in 1949).

While Stokes was intending to make a late call on his final selection of the year, as he and the head coach assess conditions at the National Stadium, the captain stressed that, if Ahmed was picked, it would be because he is deemed ready.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum talk
Brendon McCullum (left) and Ben Stokes will make a late call on their selection for England. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Stokes said: “I don’t think it would be a case of giving caps away. We picked Rehan in the squad not just because of his talent and to integrate him, but because it would be a good opportunity to play him if we thought it was necessary.

“I’m struggling to work out what he is, whether he’s a batter or a leg-spinner, which is good I guess, because it shows how much talent he’s got.

“Having a wrist-spinner is always exciting, especially for England, but it’s not getting too carried away with the potential that he has. Because he is only young, and you’ve still got to nurture talent, no matter how exciting it is.”

Stokes, once dismissed by Ahmed in the nets when the spinner was 11 years old, believes it would also send a message to young players from the British Asian community at a time when the sport’s inclusive credentials remain under the microscope.

“I have always felt cricket is a very inclusive sport,” Stokes said. “Certainly during my time in the England team, you have been selected on your skills as a cricketer first and foremost and that still should be the way going forward.

“Rehan, he could be an unbelievable example to set for younger kids who want to come up. They may have maybe heard about what’s happened in cricket recently [but] he can be seen as ‘we’ve got this 18-year-old, hopefully a potential superstar, why can’t I be that?’”

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