Michael Atherton has earmarked Shoaib Bashir as “the one” England will look to in the future as their first-spin option in Test matches.

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Bashir was impressive on his debut international series in India, taking 17 wickets across three Test matches including two five-fors. Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, Atherton heaped praise on the 20-year-old, stating that his performances had catapulted him up the pecking order of English spinners.

In a discussion with Nasser Hussain over which group of bowlers England would back to take them through to the 2025/26 Ashes series, Atherton said: “One spinner, who’s it going to be? You mention Bashir there, I think probably, he might be the one that they [England] look at actually.”

Bashir had played only six first-class games before receiving his call-up to the Test squad in January, having made his debut for Somerset in June 2023. He took ten wickets at an average of 67 across those games. Before the fifth Test at Dharamshala, which England lost by an innings inside three days, Brendon McCullum voiced frustration at the prospect of the young spinners on the tour not having enough opportunities to play county cricket.

“It will be a slight frustration of ours if they weren’t given opportunities at county level,” said McCullum. “There’s a very real possibility that might be the case. But without wanting to dictate to counties because they have their own agendas, when you see performances like we have out of those two bowlers throughout the series, I think you’d be slightly mad if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”

Bashir competes with Jack Leach at Somerset if only one spinner is required in their XI. Tom Hartley, who finished the series in India as England’s leading wicket-taker, will have to compete with Nathan Lyon, who has been signed for the entire season by Lancashire.

“He does need to play,” said Atherton. “Although he’s done well here having not played before, he’d only played six games, but I agree, he does need to play, whether Somerset can play two spinners — whether Leach will be fit for the start of the season is another matter – and indeed whether Somerset then can play two spinners, whether Lancashire can play two spinners with Nathan Lyon, who knows.

“But just putting that to one side for a moment, of the spinners we’ve seen here, Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Bashir, and Leach of course, I think they [England] might just think Bashir is the one if they’re going to play an attack with one spinner, three seamers and Stokes, who we might just come to in a minute.

“Just because Hartley is talked about, Hartley was a particular pick for here, as was Bashir obviously. But Hartley talked about wanting to improve and get more overspin on the ball, and he hopes that playing alongside Nathan Lyon will allow him to do that. That’s what Bashir has got. I think he’s a more rounded bowler at the moment with the way that he bowls. But we shall see.

“Anyway, it was a hugely impressive first series for both of them. Good picks and well done to them for holding their nerves under a barrage occasionally and obviously picked up their wickets as well.”

England’s next Test assignment is against the West Indies at home in July. After picking up a knee injury in the first Test match, Leach will undergo surgery before the start of the English domestic season, which starts on April 5 with the first round of the County Championship matches.