CHESTER-LE-STREET, England, Sept 1 AAP – Fawad Ahmed completed one dream journey with his breakthrough performance for Australia and believes he’s started another towards a possible Ashes call-up.
The former Pakistani refugee claimed his first full international wickets in Saturday’s 29-run Twenty20 loss to England, finishing with an impressive 3-25 in only his second appearance for his adopted nation.
The 31-year-old leg-spinner made a wicketless debut in Australia’s 39-run win in Southampton on Thursday.
But he truly signalled his arrival with his performance at Chester-le-Street.
Ahmed blew a kiss to the sky in a sign of his faith after dismissing England opener Michael Lumb to claim his first international wicket.
“I was always praying and making prayers that I would play for Australia and play good cricket and that was the moment,” Ahmed told AAP.
“When you take a wicket for your country and are representing the country, there’s nothing better, so it was to say thank you.
“… The dream has come true. I’ve waited for a long time to be included and been through a really tough time since I start my cricket.
“It was a great moment for me and I’ll remember this forever in my life.”
Ahmed fled to Australia from Pakistan in 2010 as an asylum seeker after receiving death threats for supporting women’s rights.
He became qualified to play for Australia in June, when a change in government legislation allowed his citizenship to be fast-tracked.
After a patchy showing on recent tours with Australia A, Ahmed’s performance on a batsman-friendly wicket on Saturday offered the strongest sign yet to back up calls for his selection in the home Ashes series in three months time.
Ahmed admits he’s felt the pressure of expectations and talk he could be the man to finally fill the spin void left by the retirement of Shane Warne.
But he backs his ability and believes he can get himself in contention for a Test call-up, if he takes his opportunities in the coming one-day series against England.
“There is a big series coming up against India (in October) as well so I’m looking forward to the limited overs,” Ahmed said.
“If I’m having a chance in the future for the Ashes that’s all well and good.
“I’m pretty hopeful I’m going to play good cricket for Australia in all formats for the next few years but it’s really hard to compare me with Shane Warne.
“Australian people are used to having a Shane Warne in their side.
“Nathan Lyon has bowled really well in the Test cricket as well but they’re still expecting someone like the Shane Warne. It’s not going to be like that.”
Ahmed says he has a tough journey ahead but he’s showing signs he has the nerve for it.
Australian T20 skipper George Bailey entrusted him with bowling the final over of England’s innings and he responded by taking two wickets – including clean bowling Jos Buttler – and conceded only eight runs.
Ahmed said his confidence continued to grow because of great support and belief from his teammates, officials and the public.
“The whole nation is with me, even back in Pakistan everybody is really supporting me,” he said.
“And in Australia’s it’s amazing. The way the people love me, Cricket Australia, the government. My morale is getting higher and higher every day.”