Former team-mates and club officials have been paying tribute to Nauman Ali after his stunning Test debut for Pakistan.
The Manningham Mills and Bradford & Bingley all rounder returned amazing figures of 25.3-8-35-5 to help his country pull off an impressive seven wicket win over South Africa in Karachi.
It meant that the 34-year-old – the fourth oldest player to make a Test debut for Pakistan – finished with match analysis of 42.3-12-73-7. For good measure he also made 24 in his only innings as a priceless 55 runs were added for Pakistan’s last wicket with fellow spinner Yasir Shah as they stretch the first innings lead to 158
Although beaten to the man of the match award by century maker Fawad Alam, Ali did pick up a prize worth 50,000 rupees for the performance of the match. He is the oldest player for 71 years to take five wickets on debut in a Test and his performances have delighted his many friends.
Hard work, dedication, belief in his ability, and love of the game are just four of the qualities highlighted by those who built a close bond with Ali during his time in the Bradford League.
Naz Hussain, left, Community Development Officer for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation and groundsman at Park Avenue, saw first-hand the hard work Ali put in to making himself a top player.
“You would see him down at the ground every day training and practising in the nets. Often, he would be with the former Morley overseas player Kashif Naveed and they would spend hours working,” he said.
“Nauman came to take fitness very seriously. I remember when he first arrived and England and took a coaching course at Karmand Centre that he was a little chubby, but he soon trimmed down with all the work he put in.
“Whenever you saw him, he was smiling. I think that is why he became such a popular figure around the Bradford League. He loved meeting and talking with people and he particularly liked passing on advice to young cricketers.
“It is great that he should get his chance. The new chairman of selectors Mohammad Wasim made him captain of Northern District and has now given him his Test debut.
“I could not be more thrilled for him because he is such a humble and talented person who always plays with a smile on his face. He has waited a long time and I hope he goes on to have more opportunities with Pakistan’s cricket having undergone big change.”
Adal Islam, left, who has played in the Bradford League for 20 years, was a team-mate of Ali’s at Manningham Mills.
He said: “I could see from the start that he was a very skilful left arm spin bowler, so I am delighted that he has got his chance and done so well for Pakistan.
“In one of our early games he told me to go and stand at short leg. I was not too keen on the idea, but he assured me I would not get hit and I never was. His control and accuracy were amazing.
“He was such a happy and positive guy in the dressing room. I will always remember the day we played Hanging Heaton in the semi-finals of the Priestley Cup in 2012.
“When we arrived at the ground Nauman was already out their driving the heavy roller with a big smile on his face. He so wanted us to win and his enthusiasm and positivity enabled us to beat a very good Hanging Heaton side.
“Nauman made a big impact at Manningham Mills. He would be the first to arrive at training and the last to leave. He loved helping the younger players and I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with him.
“It was amazing that he couldn’t speak English when he arrived but was determined to learn. He was a fast learner and by the time he joined Bradford & Bingley he was able to converse fluently.
“We still keep in touch and exchange messages. I am so pleased he has last got the chance to show what a fine cricketer he is. He has been the top spinner in Pakistan for the past two years with his wicket taking and great economy.
“He also showed in the Test that he is a very able batsman. The runs he put on for the last wicket with Yasir Shah in Pakistan’s first innings were crucial to the outcome. I believe that despite his age he can play for Pakistan for another three to four years.
“I look forward to catching up with him soon, but I guess he is going to be very busy preparing for the next Test,”
Phil Slater, left, who was Ali’s captain at Bradford & Bingley and share in a Priestley Cup final triumph in 2015, said: “You could see how good he was from playing alongside him. He was so valuable bowling in the middle overs. He would restrict the runs with his great control and take wickets.
“I am thrilled he has got his chance with Pakistan. I have been keeping an eye on his performances in Pakistan domestic cricket and could see he was turning in great figures.
“In the Test he displayed the qualities we remember. He showed great control achieved great economy and stayed patient to get his wickets.
“It was also good that he showed he is not your normal number 10 batsman. The 24 runs he scored were crucial in the context of the match. Mind you, we know he can also hit a big ball.
“Looking back, it was a pleasure to play with him. He was always smiling and never sledged an opponent. He just loved playing cricket and was a real team man.!
Slater’s thoughts are backed up by Adam Swallow, Bradford & Bingley’s chairman, who signed Ali for his club in 2014. “He was a great person to have as your overseas player. Not only was he a fine cricketer, but he was also immensely popular and always had a smile on his face.
“He was a fine bowler for us and so hard to score off. It is so pleasing to see him finally recognised by Pakistan at the age of 34.”
New Farnley cricket chairman Paul Hutchison was in the process of bringing Ali back to the Bradford League in 2020 after the players had spent the previous two seasons with Farnworth in the Bolton League.
He said: “If it hadn’t been for Covid-19 he would have been playing with us last year and showing again that he is a top player.
“He deserved his chance to play on the world stage and has taken it. He showed great control and built the pressure on the South African batsmen and was rewarded with his five-wicket haul.
“Ironically, I had woken up early this morning and looked at the score and saw South Africa were six down. Rather than watch the TV coverage I decided to have some extra sleep and when I next looked at the score, I saw he had wrapped up the innings.
“I am delighted for him because he showed during his time in the league that he is a very talented bowler.”
Farakh Hussain is a player with the rare distinction of having played Bradford League cricket alongside two members of the Pakistan team that defeated South Africa, Ali, and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
The hard-hitting Jer Lane opener played alongside Ali at Manningham Mills and Ashraf at Undercliffe and is delighted that his two former colleagues are impressing at Test level.
He said: “When Nauman first arrived at Mills I thought he was just going to be another standard left arm spinner like so many produced in Pakistan, but I soon saw that he was different.
“Nauman had immaculate control and would vary his flight skilfully. Batsmen found it incredibly difficult to score runs off him and he was clever and knew how to get them out.
“I still keep in touch with him and sent him a message of congratulations after the Test. He has had to wait a long time for his chance because of the politics in Pakistan cricket, but things are now changing, and players are being picked on form.
“He has been the leading wicket taker in Pakistan over the past two seasons, so it was good to see that when he was given his chance to play for Pakistan the same qualities came through.
“I still keep in touch with him and I am so proud of him. I am also pleased that people could see that he knows how to bat. At Mills he was a key component to our style of play. I would launch off at the start of the innings, Adal Islam, Gulsheraz Ahmed and Adam Patel would then accumulate runs, before Nauman would arrive to launch a final assault.”
Ashraf, who was playing in his seventh Test, scored 64 in the first innings, and showed himself to be an attractive stroke player.
Hussain added: “When he came to Undercliffe he was still young, but you could see he had something special. He was not a quick bowler like a Rana Naveed, but he was always one step ahead as he read the game well and he always looked good with the bat. He is going to be a very good player for Pakistan.”