June 20 (Reuters) - Pakistan-born refugee Fawad Ahmed's Ashes dreams received a major boost on Thursday with the Australian senate passing legislation to fast-track citizenship in special cases.
The legislation empowers the immigration minister to apply shorter residential requirements on certain citizenship seekers.
"This is pleasing news for CA and a big step forward in a process that will help enable Fawad Ahmed become an Australian citizen," a Cricket Australia (CA) spokesman said on the governing body's website (www.cricket.com.au).
Ahmed, a 31-year-old leg spinner, arrived in Australia in 2010 on a short-term visa and claimed asylum on the grounds of receiving death threats from Islamic extremists for being involved with a Pakistani NGO promoting women's rights.
The spinner, who has claimed 40 wickets from 14 first class matches, was picked in the Australia A squad to tour South Africa and Zimbabwe starting next month but could be handed a debut in the first test against England starting on July 10.
Chief selector John Inverarity said on Wednesday both Ahmed and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar were in contention if Australia had to add a second spinner to the Ashes squad.
Australia have tried a dozen slow bowlers since spin great Shane Warne retired with 708 test wickets after helping the team whitewash England 5-0 in the 2006/7 Ashes series.
They have lost both Ashes series since and have included one spinner, Nathan Lyon, in their squad as they renew the rivalry next month. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi, editing by Justin Palmer)