Ben Duckett plays down ‘mystery’ of Abrar Ahmed after spinner’s stunning debut

Ben Duckett admitted England had “limited footage” of Abrar Ahmed ahead of the second Test but insisted he was not a “mystery spinner” after the 24-year-old claimed seven wickets on day one in Multan.

Having been left out of the first Test in Rawalpindi, Abrar had a dream debut – finishing with figures of seven for 114, the 12th-best in a player’s maiden Test innings, as England were bowled out for 281.

Pakistan finished the day on top after Babar Azam hit an elegant unbeaten 61 to guide the hosts to 107 for two in reply to England’s quick-scoring but short-lived innings.

On a pitch that ominously for Ben Stokes’ side favoured the spinners, Pakistan took wickets consistently throughout the visitors’ innings while England – who won the toss and elected to bat – had selected an extra seam option in Mark Wood.

Duckett scored a half-century before being trapped lbw by Abrar and the opener admitted he had little knowledge of the spinner, who has a first-class average of just 25.56.

“When anyone starts their career you don’t see much of them,” he said.

“We had limited footage and I’m sure different players looked at as much or as less as they wanted. I didn’t look at much footage.

“For me, when someone spins it both ways, I’d rather not necessarily know how good he is.

Ben Duckett sweeps in Multan
Ben Duckett made 63 before falling to Abrar Ahmed (Anjum Naveed/AP)

“I wouldn’t want to see all his magic balls, I would rather focus on how am I going to be effective against him and how to build a gameplan on how to score runs against him.”

Abrar’s googly to Ben Stokes was the pick of the wickets as he rattled through the English top order, at one point looking on course to become only the fourth player in Test cricket to take 10 scalps in an innings.

The 24-year-old bowled a ball to the tourists’ captain that pitched on leg stump and turned sharply to hit the top of off, with a visibly stunned Stokes departing for 30.

“He was basically a leg-spinner and he has a good googly,” Duckett said.

“There was no real mystery to it. But he bowled beautifully today. I’m sure we’ll have our plans to him second innings and I’m pretty sure we won’t be blocking it.”

Stokes said ahead of the game that he was not one for looking at pitches and trying to read them ahead of time, but will be contemplating his spin options ahead of day two on a turning track offering significantly more than the lifeless pitch in Rawalpindi.

Ben Stokes, left, is bowled by Abrar Ahmed, not pictured
Ben Stokes is bowled by Abrar Ahmed (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Zahid Mahmood had been successfully dispatched all over the pitch in the first Test but finished the day in Multan with three wickets, although Duckett believes he will not deviate from playing on instinct.

When asked how he played the previously unknown spinner, Duckett said: “I just tried to sweep every ball he bowled, really. Try and stick to my game and not really worry about what he was trying to do.

“We are pretty happy. On another day we might have got 350, another we might have been 150 all out.”

Abrar was especially pleased to have claimed the wickets of both Stokes and former captain Joe Root.

“I can’t describe my feelings in words,” he said.

Abrar Ahmed reacts after his fifth wicket
Abrar Ahmed reacts after his fifth wicket (Anjum Naveed/AP)

“It’s great to have achieved what I had set out for. Before the match I had said in an interview that Joe Root and Ben Stokes will be challenging so it’s great to have the wickets of both.

“My team-mates were telling me that it’s always the first Test wicket that you cherish but for me Stokes’ wicket was the best. He is a very good batter, an attacking one.

“Initially I was a mystery spinner but now I bowl leg spin more.

“I used a lot of tricks, changing my grip and using the crease. My varieties help me.”