Debutant 33-year-old off-spinner Bilal Asif scalped 6 for 36 in Australia’s first innings to turn the first Test in Pakistan’s favour on Tuesday.
Asif is no spring chicken. He made his international debut in 2015 and played three One-Day Internationals before being dropped from the unit. He also picked up a five-wicket haul in his second match but went wicketless in the other two. However, when Asif finally got another chance after three years, he made it count.
“I’ve been struggling for the last few years. I made my debut in 2015 against Zimbabwe and, after that, and I’ve made my debut in Tests after three years. So it’s been a long time. I’m working hard at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) and the guys are working very well with me. But I’m here now, I’m happy,” he said. “Feeling really happy. I have picked up six wickets in the first innings, now I will try to make this as good a debut as I can and keep contributing to Pakistan’s cause.”
He spent time with former Pakistani legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed at the NCA to improve his bowling when he was out of contention.
“I was at the NCA camp where I worked with Mushy bhai. I need to really thank him for the work he did with me. I have been working with him in the last three years. I got the reward today – credit goes to Mushy bhai who has always supported me on and off the field,” said Asif, who had played 23 first-class and 66 List A games.
“I have been bowling a long time, bowling in first-class and one-day cricket in Pakistan, so you have an idea of what to do on what sort of pitches, what help you can get. So you look at the wicket, and you know that the wickets in the UAE suit the spinners more, so I tried to vary my pace a little bit. Thanks to the almighty, the result was good.”
After bowling Pakistan out for 482, Australia got off to a solid start, courtesy Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch’s 142-run opening stand. However, the moment Mohammad Abbas (4 for 29) dismissed Finch, Asif took over made the visiting side bite the dust. The Tim Paine-led side were bundled out for 202, handing Pakistan a first-innings lead of 280 runs.
“Making your debut, there is a pressure. In the first session, I couldn’t bowl well, I wasn’t feeling fell. So my teammates supported me a lot and they gave me confidence that you can do it,” Asif said.
Asif also came in support of his senior partner Yasir Shah who went wicketless in his 28 overs.
“See this is a team game. He is a world-class bowler. I think I was also a bit lucky today that I got so many wickets,” Asif said.