Rashid clone primed for BBL finals tilt

08 February 2019

Afghanistan spinner showed plenty of promise on debut for the Hurricanes and could prove a handful during Big Bash finals

The Hobart Hurricanes have hardly put a foot wrong this summer and they look to have struck gold again with the perfectly-timed introduction of their new mystery spinner likened to Rashid Khan.

Enthusiastic Afghan teenager Qais Ahmad took just five balls to announce himself on KFC BBL debut, picking up the key scalp of Melbourne Renegades skipper Aaron Finch with a wrong'un on Thursday at Blundstone Arena.

The Hurricanes' dominant run in BBL08 gave them the luxury of purposely holding off on signing a second overseas player as a replacement for injured paceman Tymal Mills.

Their patience might have proved a masterstroke; not only did they keep winning while only fielding one international – albeit a good one in Jofra Archer – but the unforeseen retirement of Johan Botha last month left him in the lurch at short notice.

"We specifically held off on this overseas (signing) because we wanted to get to the back end of the tournament and see what we needed to fill if something happened," said coach Adam Griffith. 

"As it turned out, when 'Boths' pulled the pin, we needed a spinner. If we'd brought a batter in early, that would have been a bit of a circus for what we needed. 

"It's just allowed us that flexibility to bring someone in that can have an impact for us.

"He's got some different deliveries that suit our conditions, one that skids on, he turns his leg-spinner." 

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While no player ever comes into the Big Bash as a genuine unknown – teams now have access to footage from cricket all around the globe – Ahmad, who has had encouraging recent stints in T20 leagues in Bangladesh and the Caribbean, is as close to one as they come. 

One of the few things his new Hurricanes teammates did know about him was his willingness to perform front flips when celebrating wickets, though Ahmad didn't attempt one after either of his two wickets on Thursday.

Perhaps the only real familiarity BBL batters can hope for when facing Ahmad is his likeness to Adelaide Strikers star Rashid, with Hurricanes batter Ben McDermott admitting Ahmad's fast arm action and change-ups reminded him of the trailblazing Afghan. 

"Those mystery spinners have seen great results in the Big Bash," said McDermott. 

"(Brisbane Heat’s) Mujeeb (ur Rahman), 'Rash' have done well for a couple of years now and a few others. 

"They (batsmen) want to look at him first, they don't want to take him on straightaway because they've never faced him. I think that's a bonus."

Renegades dangerman Tom Cooper admitted that despite being able to watch vision of Ahmad, facing a wrist-spinner for the first time always represents a challenge.

"With all the footage now, everyone can look at him as much as possible (but) it is always nice to face them so you're probably taking an extra couple of balls," said Cooper.

The access to match footage was also of use to Hurricanes coaching staff, who have had little time to school Ahmad in their game plan given he only arrived in Hobart this week and speaks limited English.

"I did a lot of visual stuff with him, so we showed him want we wanted him to bowl and how we wanted him to bowl," explained Griffith.

"But the reason we got him is for what he does, so we actually want him to make sure he's doing what he does really well and we'll just try and tweak it around for our conditions." 

Ahmad added the wicket of Cooper in his Hurricanes debut and only conceded six runs from his first two overs to peg back the Renegades, before having his figures blown out by going for back-to-back sixes from the final two balls of his allotment.

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With Hobart locking a home semi-final (and guarantee a home final, should they qualify) with a game to spare, Ahmad now looms a further weapon in the Hurricanes' armoury.

"He bowled beautifully and his energy was excellent," said Griffith. "Sometimes when (overseas players) come over, they can sit back a bit in the field, but he buzzes around. 

"It just looks like he loves cricket, which is really refreshing. We're really excited to have him and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do over the next couple of games."

The Hurricanes' final regular-season match is against the Sydney Thunder in Canberra on Saturday and they have named an unchanged 13-man squad for the contest.

Hurricanes squad: Matthew Wade (C), Qais Ahmad, Jofra Archer, George Bailey, Alex Doolan, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Simon Milenko, David Moody, Tom Rogers, Clive Rose, D'Arcy Short

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Hobart Hurricanes Men

Rashid Khan