There was a strong possibility of Pakistan being bowled out for under 100 in their first innings of the Headingley Test against England. At 79/7, they were staring down the barrel. That they got to 174 was almost entirely down to Shadab Khan, the leg-spinning all-rounder at No.7, who scored a 52-ball 56.
Khan, 19, has been a revelation on this tour. Prior to the start of the series, the Pakistan team management had hinted at an all-pace attack primarily because Yasir Shah had been ruled out with an injury and Khan, the replacement, had the experience of just one Test match.
But after starting with 2/88 in the rain-hit tour game against Kent, Khan flourished against Northamptonshire, returning 6/77 and 4/80. That meant a place in the XI in the Test against Ireland, and then in the series against England at Lord’s.
In the Tests, in pacer-friendly conditions, Khan hasn’t picked up too many wickets, but has been his team’s most consistent batsman. His 55 and 4* against Ireland were followed by 52 in his only innings at Lord’s and then by the rescue act at Headingley.
When a journalist suggested after the first day of the second and final Test that Khan had shades of Steven Smith – turning into a batsman after starting out as a leg-spinner – the teenager smiled shyly before replying, “He’s my favourite, but not yet. I didn’t go as a batsman, the focus is on being a bowling all-rounder, just play as a bowling all-rounder.”
Khan, who made a name as a limited-overs bowler – he’s at No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Bowler Rankings behind Rashid Khan – before appearing on the Test scene, stitched together a 34-run stand with Mohammad Amir (13) and then a 43-run association with Hasan Ali (24) before opening up once left with last-man Mohammad Abbas.
“There was seam and swing when I was batting. I was only trying to do what I know,” Khan said. “Whenever I go in to bat, I take it as my last innings. I try to go as long as I can. Because the more time you spend on the crease, the more you will score.”
Interestingly, Khan has three half-centuries in his seven innings in one-day internationals, in which he averages 51.50, and has a Twenty20 International batting strike rate of 152.38.
So there is great batting potential there. “I try to punish the ball that is in my area,” he explained.
That he certainly did on Friday at Headingley, and while Pakistan will welcome his contributions from low down in the batting order, they will hope he can turn it on with the ball before England build on their overnight 106/2 and run away with the Test match.