The name Bilal Shafayat does not flow off the tongue. But it will, it will. Five days short of his 17th birthday, Shafayat became the youngest championship cricketer in Nottinghamshire's history here yesterday and looked a class batsman in the making.
Born in Nottingham of Pakistani parents, Shafayat comfortably eased his way to an unbeaten 54 with great patience, composure and wristy, languid strokes that could have had their origin in the dusty back streets of Faisalabad.
If it is awesome at the age of 16 to walk in on this famous ground and join an Australian Test batsman and face your first ball from an England spinner, Shafayat did not show it. Indeed, on reaching his half-century from 177 balls, he knelt and kissed the turf.
Nottinghamshire probably needed something to lift their spirits after an indifferent bowling display. Middlesex had fallen just short of the 550 they probably wanted on this pitch. Ben Hutton also missed a second century which seemed there for the taking.
When Nottinghamshire batted Tim Bloomfield showed what was possible by bowling from close to the stumps. He accounted for Guy Welton, who collected his fifth nought of the season, and Darren Bicknell.
Greg Blewett and Kevin Pietersen not only restored order but scored at four an over with some rousing front-foot drives. But, unlike Nottinghamshire, Middlesex had picked two slow bowlers and when Phil Tufnell appeared he soon deceived Pietersen with a subtle change of pace.
Then along came Shafayat, who was not the type to be phased. Blewett put a fatherly arm round him and talked him through the early stages. But the young man did the rest himself and, though he enjoyed some luck with a couple of close catches, anyone needing proof that Nottinghamshire have discovered a special talent got it when he went down the pitch to drive Tufnell back over his head to the boundary.Reuse content