At 14 years and 227 days Hasan Raza, still at school in Karachi, became the youngest Test cricketer of all time, beating the record held by the present Pakistani manager, Mushtaq Mohammad, who made his debut at the age of 15 years and 124 days against the West Indies in Lahore in 1958.
Hasan made his first-class debut less than a fortnight ago, scoring 58 in the first innings for the Pakistan Board XI against Zimbabwe at Sahiwal, and he has taken a week off school to play at Faisalabad. Earlier this year he made 80 in a losing cause in the final of the Under-15 World Cup against India at Lord's.
Pitching players in at the highest level, regardless of age, is nothing new on the sub-continent: of the 10 youngest Test cricketers ever, eight are from Pakistan and the other two are from India, including their current captain, Sachin Tendulkar, who made his debut at 16.
Among contemporary Pakistan players, Aqib Javed was 16 when he first played, in 1988, and Ata-ur-Rehman 17 when he made his debut at Edgbaston in 1992. England players, on the other hand, are conspicuous by their absence from the list, Brian Close establishing the record in 1949 at 18 years and 149 days. However, England do figure more prominently in the list of oldest players to have been introduced to Test cricket.
Yesterday, after watching his captain condemn Zimbabwe to a paltry first- innings total of 133, Hasan came to the wicket with Pakistan tottering slightly on 67 for 3. With the opener Saeed Anwar, Hasan steadied the ship, hitting four fours in his 20 and sharing an unbroken stand of 47 for the fourth wicket as Pakistan closed the day on 114 for 3.
"I am just thrilled to be playing for my country," Hasan said later, adding modestly: "It is indeed a great honour, more so when I have become the youngest Test cricketer."
The deposed prince, Mushtaq, said: "I don't remember how good I was at 15 years old, but this boy is really good. He is a natural. He's confident and not afraid to hit the ball."
First day; Zimbabwe won toss
ZIMBABWE - First Innings
G W Flower b Wasim Akram 15
M H Dekker c Moin Khan b Wasim Akram 19
C B Wishart lbw b Waqar Younis 0
D L Houghton b Wasim Akram 1
*A D R Campbell c Moin Khan b Saqlain 9
A Flower c Mohammad Hussain b Shahid 61
G J Whittal b Wasim Akram 9
P A Strang c Salim b Mohammad Hussain 3
B C Strang b Wasim Akram 1
M Mbangwa b Wasim Akram 0
E Matambanabzo not out 0
Extras (b-4 lb-10 nb-1) 15
Total (57.5 overs) 133
Fall: 1-22 2-32 3-34 4-49 5-55 6-102 7-111 8-118 9-129.
Bowling: Wasim Akram 20-7-48-6 (nb-1); Waqar Younis 11-6-13-1; Saqlain Mushtaq 15-5-28-1; Shahid Nazir 5.5-0-23-1; Mohammad Hussain 6-3-7-1.
PAKISTAN - First Innings
Saeed Anwar not out 69
Aamer Sohail lbw b Matambanabzo 2
Ijaz Ahmed c A Flower b Mbangwa 2
Salim Malik c A Flower b P Strang 18
Hasan Raza not out 20
Extras (lb3) 3
Total (for 3, 31 overs) 114
Fall: 1-7 2-10 3-67.
To bat: Moin Khan, *Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mohammed Hussain, Waqar Younis, Shahid Nazeer.
Bowling: Matambanabzo 6-0-29-1; Mbangwa 10-1-41-1; B Strang 7-2-13-1; Whittal 2-1-3-0; P Strang 6-1-25-0.
England have been listed third from bottom in a new world Test ranking compiled by Wisden. Only Zimbabwe and New Zealand, their opponents this winter, are below them in a table based on series played since October 1990. It is headed by South Africa. Two points are awarded for winning a series or one-off Test and one for a draw.
WISDEN WORLD STANDINGS: 1 South Africa; 2= Australia, West Indies; 4= India, Pakistan; 6 Sri Lanka; 7 England; 8 Zimbabwe; 9 New Zealand.