James Vince on Rehan Ahmed: 'You forget his age ... he knows what he's doing'

Legspinner showed his steely side after tough start to must-win group game, says captain

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
It was business as usual in the final analysis for Rehan Ahmed on Wednesday, as Southern Brave overcame Manchester Originals in their crucial final group-stage encounter at Emirates Old Trafford, to book themselves a rematch in Saturday's Men's Hundred Eliminator.
There they were on the score-sheet: game-turning figures of 2 for 26 in 20 balls for Rehan, including the critical scalp of England's captain Jos Buttler, who was suckered into a launch down long-on's throat for 45 from 42 balls, just when it seemed he was primed to unleash at the death.
But, as Brave's captain, James Vince, admitted on the eve of the Eliminator, Rehan's performance on Wednesday night had been one of two distinct halves. He opened his account with consecutive full-tosses from balls 26 and 27, then served up another at the start of his second set that was launched for six by Wayne Madsen.
Only some sharp fielding and poor shot selection prevented what Vince described as "probably 10 of [Rehan's] worst balls" proving more costly than their eventual 17 runs. However, the fact that he then bounced back with ten of his best at the back-end of the innings was, Vince added, further evidence of his legspinner's uncanny maturity.
"Rehan has bowled brilliantly all competition," Vince said. "He came back really strongly in the last game after a couple of average sets first-up, so it was great to see the way he bounced back and he's been really reliable all tournament.
"To be honest, you kind of forget his age," Vince added, with Rehan having turned 19 earlier this month. "That's down to the way he is around the group, the way he is on the field. He's certainly above his years, and if you didn't know his age, you would easily say from the way he carries himself and the way he performs that he's in his mid-20s. So I think he's going to grow and grow."
It's easy to get carried away with Rehan's self-assurance. His back-story is by now well known - from being a net bowler with England at the age of 11, ahead of the 2016 Lord's Test against Pakistan, to his Test debut against the same opponents in Karachi last winter, when he overtook Brian Close as the youngest men's player in England's history, and celebrated with a matchwinning five-wicket haul.
And, if the sense is growing that this is a player who relishes the big stage, then the closing weekend of the Men's Hundred - including the prospect of a Lord's final on Sunday - offers another key staging post in Rehan's fast-tracked development.
"[It's great] that he can have these experiences and to have played international cricket already," Vince added. "With the responsibilities as legspinner, there's no-one else that can really pick up those overs in a game. It's not like a batter who, if they don't perform, someone else can come in and pick up their role. His role is specific and there's only one or two of those in the team, so he's certainly very mature for his age."
With that in mind, and with Southern Brave's qualification hopes hinging on victory on Wednesday night, Vince admitted he had no qualms about trusting Rehan to raise his game at the crunch. First he returned for a tidy four-run set between balls 61 and 65, and then produced his decisive final burst from balls 81 to 85, which began with Paul Walter miscuing a googly into the covers before Buttler's fateful hack off his penultimate delivery.
"As a captain, there's only so much you can say out there to get behind the guys," Vince said. "He doesn't need much maintenance. He knows what he's doing. He's got a big backing of himself, which is massively important. He didn't shy away, or fear going for more runs. He still felt like he could have an impact on the game, and he got two crucial wickets in his last set of five, which really halted them at the end.
"He wanted the ball - he wanted to bowl 10 in a row at one stage - so massive credit to him to have the confidence in his own ability to be able to turn it around. He realised that he didn't get it quite right first-up, but that's the first time in the whole tournament that that's been the case. So the fact that he was still eager to bowl is great to have as a captain."
Buttler concurred: "He doesn't lack confidence. He certainly seems to warm to these occasions, and to want the ball all the time, which is great to see in such a young guy. And this is what the Hundred is all about, for someone like Rehan to be exposed to big nights like this at that age, in our own domestic competition. I know he has already travelled the world a bit in T20 and franchise cricket, but everyone in England cricket, with whatever colour ball, is excited for his potential in the future."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket