FORMER team-mates and club officials have been paying tribute to ex-Manningham Mills and Bradford & Bingley star Nauman Ali after his stunning Test debut for Pakistan.

Ali had already put in a solid performance as the fourth morning was drawing to a close, taking three wickets in the match up to that point.

But with South Africa sitting on 234-6 in their second innings, with a lead of 76 and an unbroken partnership of 42 between Temba Bavuma and George Linde, they were threatening to leave Pakistan with a testing chase.

That was until 34-year-old left-arm spinner Ali stepped up, picking up the last four wickets in double quick time to dismiss South Africa for 245, allowing Pakistan to chase down their target of 88 for the loss of just three wickets.

Ali took 7-73 in the match and 5-35 in that magnificent second innings performance, meaning he is the oldest player for 71 years to take a five-wicket haul on his Test debut.

His performances have delighted his friends and 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 the spinner during his time in the Bradford League.

Adal Islam, 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 there, 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 he 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 at 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.

“I believe that despite his age he can play for Pakistan for another three to four years.”

Phil Slater, who was Ali’s captain at Bradford & Bingley, 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 Pakistani 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 (in Pakistan’s first innings total of 378) were crucial in the context of the match.

“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.”

New Farnley cricket chairman Paul Hutchison was in the process of bringing Ali back to the Bradford League in 2020, three years after his final appearance for Bradford & Bingley.

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.

“I am delighted for him because he showed during his time in the league that he is a very talented bowler.”