Australia v West Indies – SCG Test, Day 1: The Curious Case of Fawad Ahmed

Stumps, Day1: West Indies 6/207 (75 overs)

Reports of the death of the spin bowler have been premature. Most nights in the Big Bash League, a spinner will take the new white pill. And to see two spinners bowling in tandem on the first day of the Sydney Test was to bear witness to another time, when a pair of tweakers were a common sight in Test Match elevens.

But for all the thrill of witnessing Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe bowling a combined 46 first-day overs, I kept thinking how wonderful it would have been to have seen the former (surely now the undisputed premier spin bowler in the land) in partnership with the second-best spinner in the country, Fawad Ahmed.

Fair play to SNJ O’Keefe. He has plied his trade in first class cricket for eleven seasons now, having (prior to yesterday) taken 191 wickets at the miserly average of 24.78. He also holds his own with the bat, averaging 28.8. There are plenty of worse-performed players to have pulled on the baggy green! But does anybody seriously believe (selectors included) that he is a better spin bowler than Fawad Ahmed?

Fawad’s situation is interesting, to say the least. On the back of a momentous 2014/15 Shield season, in which he snared 48 wickets at 24.85, he was rightfully selected as Lyon’s understudy for the tours of the West Indies and England. After being on the cusp of selection for the First Test in Dominica, he was rarely sighted again during the winter. Some curious comments from Darren Lehmann and Rod Marsh toward the end of the Ashes tour had me fearing for Fawad’s future, and those fears have not been unfounded. I, for one, am mystified as to how he could have fallen so far from the reckoning when his only hit-outs were the scratch matches in which so little importance is now placed.

But to his credit, Fawad Ahmed has stuck at it. He has rebounded from the disappointment of being overlooked for Victoria’s Matador Cup squad to be Victoria’s leading wicket-taker at the mid-point of the Shield season (even ahead of more fancied bowlers such as Pattinson and Scott Boland). In the Big Bash comp, to see him performing without fuss for the Sydney Sixers, unobtrusively doing his job in the face of the mindless barracking for Brad Hogg’s inclusion in the national T20 squad, is to watch the consummate old-fashioned pro go about his business. He has only been “got at” once in the BBL thus far.

And again, there he was last night, trundling away with a soggy ball in the Brisbane rain when, if all was right with the world, he should have been laying waste to the West Indies tail in Sydney.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Yes. the non-selection of Fawad in the second Windies test was a disgrace. Surely he was on tour to see if he could help us keep the Ashes. The Poms can’t play legpsinenrs. Terribel disgraceful. In 72-3 we had 6 wrist spinners in the squad. These ex-tweakers are ruining a great Australian strength. I put my head down teh toilet whenever DOherty, Beer, O’Keefe or Agar bowl. At least Clarke and Lehmann span it. Inverarityism at its worst : (

  2. Kath Presdee says

    I like cheering him on for the Thunder, but it is a mystery why he isn’t in consideration for the national team.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Lehmann is an interesting gatekeeper.

    Hard yakka bowling successful left arm orthodox in Australia on covered wickets.

    Smith has some potential as a 10-12 over man.

    Yep need a leggie and I hope Fawad gets a run in Sri Lanka.

  4. Yes a tad perplexed at his progress, or more so lack of progress.

    Heaven and Earth were moved to for this chap to get Australian citizenship, he’s bowled damn well in Shield games, put in some decent performances for Australia in the limited chance he’s had in the limited overs games, but still no tests. Did his religious objections to alcohol labelling on his clothes play a part in this ?

    Whatever, he’s a bloke who deserves a Gren Cap. Let’s hpe he gets it.


  5. Dave Brown says

    Later intend to claim my account has been hacked, Smokie, but I agree there should be more Victorian bowlers in this test. That said, given the state of this series I have no problem with selections with an eye to the future. However, having watched Lyon and SOK bowl together in the shield match at the start of the year I’m not convinced SOK is the future. There seemed to me a clear class gap between the two. The SA batsmen were for the most part untroubled by SOK while Lyon looked considerably more dangerous.

  6. Fair questions to raise Smokie.

    How old is Fawad now?

  7. He’s 34 I believe, but (a) has barely bowled – 45 matches – so has none of the wear and tear; and (b) legspinners age slowly; and (c) can keep going longer. O’Reilly was whingeing that Grimmet didn’t go to England in ’38 – Grimmett was 46!!!

    Dutchy Holland was 38 when selected. Bryce McGain 37. MacGill bowled till he was 37.

    If Ahmed is actually any good, we could easily get 5 years out of him. We are happy to get 2 from Voges when middle order nickers who punish crap attacks are a dime a dozen.

    I am the most Logan’s Run selector I know, but leggies are different. If they won’t pick him at 33, why did they take him on tour? Surely not for experience, not even Marsh, R, is that perverse>

    HOLD THE PRESSES – checked cricinfo – Ahmed is 33 and 333 today. wish I had typed that at 3:33…

  8. England picking attacking offies and an attacking leggie. meanwhile…. aaaaaaagh!

  9. John Butler says

    Smokie, echoing the thoughts of many here.

    Lehman’s comments on Fawad near the end of the Ashes tour reminded me very much of the comments (unattributed at the time) that you started to hear about Khawaja before he entered the test wilderness. Not very promising.

    Nor did they seem very logical. As you point out, why judge someone so harshly on performances in throwaway tour matches you disregard in almost every other sense. The sound of a rationale in being built?

    I saw O’Keefe turn one delivery yesterday. It spun so much in relation to his other deliveries that I have to presume it hit something on the pitch.

    But I bet he’s a top bloke!

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I gave up trying to work out the aust selection panel a fair while ago,bewildering to say the least

  11. Great to read a match report of the moribund test that was actually all about T20. Fawaz bowled very serviceably at the Gabba given the slippery ball. Geez that Chris Lynn is phenomenal – and not just a bash artist. His square driving was brutal and exquisite.
    Test cricket is for the players. T20 is for spectators.
    When you mentioned O’Keefe not turning a ball, I thought Skull had made a comeback.

  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Absolutely bewildering Smokie. Only Bangladesh have gone through more left arm orthodox spinners than us recently, and they’ve been known to play three at once! The Australian way used to be to take a punt on a leggie. Would young Warnie have got a run under this regime?? Fawad is a ready made Test player now. His figures over the past few years stack up more than any other spinner in First Class cricket.

  13. Barry McAdam says

    Your last line says it all, no way O’Keefe will run through any tail like any half decent leg spinner such as Ahmed would

  14. Keiran Croker says

    Apparently he lost form bowling in the nets in England!
    Just hope he finishes off the Shield season like last year. Maybe that will keep the pressure on the selectors. Though its impossible to run a line through their thought processes.

  15. crankypete says

    Jack Wilson. 1956 tourist and lone test. Last speciailst tweaker before Ray Bright got his belaboured 1977 debut, 3.5 years after first touring.

  16. crankypete says

    it comes in waves – Bright/Hogan/Bennett. Doherty/Beer/OKeefe. Could be caused by solar flares?

  17. crankypete says

    oh and Agar. Bt he was picked as a specialist batsman. Apparently.

  18. jack Wilson. Correct me; he didn’t play a test in England but played a few on the sub continent?


  19. DBalassone says

    Agreed Smokie, O’Keefe’s sudden promotion seemed strange given Fawad was the backup spinner in England (after his monumental Shield season last summer). I wonder if the change of captaincy has something to do with this. Steve Smith is a big fan of O’Keefe and has stated such in several interviews – he may have got into the ear of the selectors.

  20. Thanks for your comments, one and all.
    I really would have loved to see Fawad playing in this Test. The West Indies have been vulnerable in the past to leg-spin, and I think we all enjoy watching a leggie who has a full bag of tricks. He especially has the knack of running through tailenders.

    Also, you may be interested to know that Fawad himself “favourited” my tweet with the link to this piece.

  21. Jack Wilson – one test. toured, got a gig in a dead rubber on the sub-. them were the days etc.

  22. Fawad’s not bowled with much control in the shield matches I’ve seen. These interrupted seasons do make it tough. But Lyon and O’Keefe is such a negative and boring combo. The offie and the left arm orthodox both feed off the left quicks scuffing up the crease to the right-handers. Not much in their favour from a right arm fast attack to right handers.

  23. i think we have to remember the frisson of excitement when we found another leggie, back in 91-2-3. It had been boring success before that (other than the tight drama of two middleweight teams in the Windies 92-3 series.)

    it’s also worth remembering that it’s a fit for purpose thing sometimes. Aussie bats can play leggies sometimes. It doesn’t mean other teams can.

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