Rashid a student sorceror

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Of all the maladies said to afflict English cricket none has seemed so dreadful as the lingering but apparently certain death of slow bowling. Spin doctors, it is widely believed, would be much more useful in cricket than politics, if it were not already too late.

It should come as a relief, therefore, to be assured that Umer Rashid is alive, well and giving the ball a delicious tweak. He is doing so for the moment in the Middlesex Second XI.

Middlesex are not one of those counties fearful of giving youth a fling so although Rashid is only 20 it is not age which tells against him but the competition in the shape of Phil Tufnell. Even those longing for the balance and beauty of the Golden Age may consider two left-arm spinners as one too many.

Rashid, as befits one who plies the spinning trade, is patient. He is clearly confident of his ability but sees no reason to be rushed either.

"I don't see myself as being in a situation where I've been held up in any way," he said. "I'm still learning so many things at second team cricket. If I'm bowling I'm learning and I've just got to keep bowling and keep bowling.

"It is not that young players aren't being given the chance. Look around the counties and you'll see there are young players playing. It may take a few years to have a full effect but things have changed."

Rashid talks with astonishing maturity and presence of mind about the difficult art of left arm-spin bowling. He showed early signs of both attributes, for instance, by changing his style.

"I began as a seam bowler when I started playing at the age of 11 but it occurred to me how tiring it was so I wanted something easier," he said. "It helped a bit when I realised I could turn the ball."

Rashid started with the Ealing club where he still plays and was spotted by Middlesex at 13. He has gone through the age-group process and last year his junior cricketing years culminated with a series of astonishing performances for England Under-19s in the international series against South Africa. He scored 167 runs in three innings including an unbeaten 97 and took 14 wickets including 10 in the final match.

"Patience and control are the main qualities of a finger spin bowler," he said. "You have to wear the batsman down, persuade him to do something different and hope he'll make a mistake and you'll get a wicket. A good wrist spinner has so many more options but we've only got two basic balls and one of them, the arm ball, you'd only use every five overs. You've just got to keep bowling and bowling at middle and off. And I think it's important these days to be able to bat as well."

Those who would maintain he deserves his opportunity should know that cricket is not his sole preoccupation. Rashid is studying for a business studies degree at South Bank University and will not be available to full- time cricket until next summer. Then his fingers can properly set about helping to revive a corpse.