Rehan Ahmed’s superb five-wicket run left England on the brink of victory in the third Test against Pakistan and a historic sweep.
Ahmed, the 18-year-old making his debut as the youngest man to play a Test for England, ripped the stick at home on day three in Karachi.
His 5-48 made him the youngest leg player to win five wickets in a men’s Test. He was the architect of a Pakistan slump of seven wickets for 52 carries.
Jack Leach had previously raised the prospect of a three-day finish with three wickets in the first hour, only for half centuries of Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel to hold England back.
But Ahmed, held until 43rd for the day, caught Babar at mid-wicket to drop Pakistan to 216.
Even with just a maximum of 22 overs remaining on the day, England sprinted past their target of 167 – flyhalf Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett added 87 from 11.3 overs before Crawley fell for 41.
Sensationally, Ahmed appeared at number three and smashed his first pitch for four, only to be launched sliding over Abrar Ahmed for 10.
Even then, captain Ben Stokes promoted to number four, but the nightfall left the Tourists 55 points short on 112-2, with Duckett unbeaten on 50.
Another day in a memorable series
This series had already produced fascinating finishes in each of England’s victories in the first two Tests and this third day in Karachi is another one that will be long remembered.
While this third ordeal will prove more one-sided than the first two, it could still be the most significant if it turns out to be the start of a long and successful career for Ahmed.
His spell on either side of the tea was enticing and thrilling, the arrival of an incredibly exciting talent at the highest level of the game.
As he led England off the pitch as the youngest debutant of any kind to win a five-wicket run in a men’s Test, thoughts turned to whether the tourists would be daring enough to take a shot. to complete the pursuit before the end of the day.
The answer came quickly, with England seeking another historic victory in the fading light, 22 years after doing the same in near darkness on this ground.
The sight of Ahmed, and then Stokes, appearing after promotions in order was pure theatrics, but England ultimately had to wait to become the first visiting side to claim a 3-0 series win in this country.
Until Ahmed came into attack more than an hour into the afternoon session, England faced the prospect of a long day and a tough chase. Babar and Shakeel were set, the field asleep and the lead at 114.
In an unchanged spell from 12.5 overs, the teenager produced a mesmerizing display in just his fourth Premier Class game.
There was a huge element of fortune in his first wicket – the stunned Babar made a terrible long jump at half-wicket, where Ollie Pope took a strong reaction.
Ahmed gained confidence, leaping, landing dipping leg jumps and dangerous googlies. Mohammad Rizwan took the lead and Shakeel dominated a sweep to give Ahmed three wickets for nine runs in the space of 17 balls.
Between Joe Root catching Faheem Ashraf on a slide and Mark Wood pinning Nauman Ali’s leg before, Ahmed got Mohammed Wasim wrong halfway through.
When Salman Agha swept the short, thin leg to give Ahmed his fifth, the teenager kissed the turf and then led England off the pitch to cheers from traveling fans, including his tearful father Naeem.
England refused by the light
Ahmed’s flurry wasn’t the only explosive spell from an English spinner – it was Leach who got the tourists going with his morning flurry.
After Pakistan took over 21-0, 29 behind, left-arm Leach tore through the first order with three wickets without a run in the space of six deliveries.
Shan Masood was knocked down while sweeping, Azhar Ali was knocked down for a duck in his final Test innings and Abdullah Shafique was trapped lbw.
Babar and Shakeel patiently restored order, only for the Pakistani implosion to trigger England’s pursuit.
Crawley and Duckett slipped in as spinners Abrar and Nauman opened the bowl, Pakistan only slowing the scoring rate by turning to pace and using upbeat criticism.
After Crawley was on the front leg sweeping Abrar and Ahmed’s cameo, Stokes swung so hard his bat flew to the square leg and Duckett completed a 38-ball half-century.
In another part of the world, it would have been possible to add half an hour at the end of the day to complete the result, but the rapid sunset prevented the extra time.
“The best day of my life” – reaction
England spinner Rehan Ahmed, speaking to BBC Sport: “It was probably the best day of my life yet. To debut as a five is a dream come true. It’s great.
“I played better balls and didn’t have wickets. Getting Babar Azam out is a dream come true. He is a very good player.
“I liked Rizwan wicket because I worked hard on my leg for the past two months with Jeetan [bowling coach Jeetan Patel]. Spinning it around a bit was great.”
Pakistani striker Azhar Ali, speaking to Sky Sports: “I was more emotional in the first run than in the second. I was quite calm but I am a human being and I felt emotions.
“I played the wrong line and Leachy, my old [Somerset] teammate, got me out. I faced him a lot in front of the net. It was time for me to say goodbye.”
Former England spinner Vic Marks on Test Match Special: “I thought it would be a lot harder for them [England] but they got the wickets in batches. There were times this morning when it looked really calm but then they got all three wickets.
“Rizwan, we know he’s dangerous, his dismissal is the one who excites you [about Ahmed].”