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September 4, 2009
Ever since he claimed six wickets on debut for Yorkshire at Scarborough in 2006, Adil Rashid has been the coming man of English cricket. The only wonder is that his advance has been so relentless yet composed. For all that England's selectors have attempted to ease him through gently, knowing full well how priceless a top-class legspinner will be to their long-term goals (never mind a legspinning allrounder), Rashid has already shown enough gumption to suggest there's no point in shielding him from the limelight any longer.
Later this month, England's Test squad for their winter tour of South Africa will be selected, and there is a growing belief that Rashid will be named as one of the two specialist spinners, alongside Graeme Swann and ahead of Monty Panesar, whose heroics with the bat in the first Test in Cardiff cannot disguise the erosion of confidence he has suffered with the ball.
Rashid, on the other hand, has grown with every game, and in every discipline. And in the opinion of the Australians who faced him in the Lions match at Worcester back in July, he has been ready for top level cricket for several months now.
"After seeing him bowl in the practice match we played earlier on, I thought he might've played a part in the Test series as well," said Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, who is unquestionably one of the finest players of spin bowling in the modern game, but who seemed paralysed at times at The Oval on Friday, as Rashid varied his flight and bite in an unrewarded spell of 0 for 37 in ten overs.
"I thought he bowled really well, I thought the conditions helped him," said Clarke. "The wicket was a little bit slow, but I think he's a wonderful player, he's got a lot of talent, and once again tonight he showed he can bat as well.
"I think he's got a bright future, I couldn't seem to hit him for any runs tonight - I probably didn't play as well as I would have liked. But any spin bowler that spins the ball is quite difficult, especially for a right-handed batsman.
A legspinner spinning it away, there's risk there. Especially for a player like me who likes to move his feet, there are chances of getting stumped. But give credit where credit's due, I could have played better but I thought he bowled really well. Hopefully I can play a lot better over the next six games against him."
Clarke's assumption that Rashid will feature for the rest of the series overlooks the fact that this was his home ODI debut, not to mention the longest spell he has yet bowled for England, after his last outing - against Ireland in Belfast last week - was reduced to a 20-over chase by rain.
But England's captain, Andrew Strauss was every bit as impressed as his opposite number. "He's mounted a pretty strong case [for inclusion] today, but you've always got to look at the conditions," he said. "Some of the games later on are at Nottingham and Durham, where there may not be a case for two spinners. We'll have to play that by ear. But certainly taking the pace off the ball looks like a good option against Australia."
"We've always known Adil was a very talented individual with ball and bat," added Strauss. "Just recently for Yorkshire he's been putting in more consistent performances, and he's starting to realise that talent. Today, in a big game for him, I thought he was exceptional with the way he bowled.
"Someone like Michael Clarke who is a very good player of spin struggled against him for a while there. That's encouraging. He's got the capability to be a genuine allrounder, which is exciting."
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