Fawad Ahmed, the leg-spinner who has been fast-tracked into the Australia set-up, finally donned the gold and green for the first time today.
The Aussies’ so-called secret weapon is making his debut in the Australia A match against Ireland here in Belfast, though he did not have to leave the players’ tent after the Ireland captain, Kevin O’Brien, won the toss and asked the tourists to bat.
With no pretensions as a batsman, Ahmed was at the bottom of the Australia team-sheet, but the fact that he was there at all is one small step in Australian history – the first Pakistan-born player to turn out for the country.
For the moment, the 31-year-old, who fled to Australia in 2010 due to fears for his safety because of Taliban threats, cannot play for the senior side until 18 August, unless he is granted an Australian passport before then. But if he makes a big impression in this match and the game against Gloucestershire next weekend, then the fast-track process could itself be fast-tracked.
Steve Smith, who could be about to be superseded as the No 1 leg-spinner on this trip, says Ahmed has fitted in well to the squad.
“He has bowled really well in the nets since he arrived in the last couple of days and has started really well,” Smith said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing him bowl in the match. He seems to be a nice fellow, I haven’t really got to know him yet, but he’s obviously a very skilful leg-spinner.”
It was Smith’s prowess with the bat which rescued Australia A from 65 for 4 to close the first day of their four-day game in Belfast on 248 for 6.
Smith resumes this morning on 104 not out, having hit 14 fours and a six and shared an unbroken partnership of 109 with James Pattinson, who has already faced 93 balls for his 42.
Brad Haddin, vice-captain to Michael Clarke in the Ashes squad and likely to lead the side if the captain does not recover from his long-standing back injury, and Usman Khawaja, the other front-line batsman not involved in the Champions Trophy, scored two runs between them. Ireland’s Max Sorensen took 4 for 44 and the veteran opening bowler Trent Johnston took 2 for 50 as the home side ripped through the Aussie top order.