Bilal Asif’s six wickets saw Australia collapse from 142-0 to 202 all out on Day Three of the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. @ Getty Images
Bilal Asif’s six wickets saw Australia collapse from 142-0 to 202 all out on Day Three of the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. @ Getty Images

At 33, it turned out to be a dream debut for Pakistan’s off-spinner Bilal Asif, who’s six wickets saw Australia collapse from 142-0 to 202 all out on Day Three of the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.

Asif, who was reported for a suspect bowling action, following his second ODI appearance against Zimbabwe in 2015, became only the third spinner in Pakistan history after Mohammad Nazir and Shahid Afridi to complete a five-wicket haul on debut.

“I have been struggling for the last few years. I made my debut against Zimbabwe in 2015 and it has taken three years for me to come back. It has been a long time. I was working very hard at the National Cricket Academy (NCA). The guys there really helped me. Now, I am here, I am very happy,” Asif said on Tuesday.

“See, being a professional cricketer, you have to be strong mentally. I never doubted myself. I just wanted to keep up my hard work. Whether I got a chance or not is not something I can control. Performing and getting a chance is all down to God. My only job is to work hard. I made a lot of efforts in the two-three years after I was out of the team.”

Asif heaped praise on former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, who was instrumental in helping him correct his action. “I would like to thank Mushy bhai [Mushtaq Ahmed] for my performance since he has been working hard with me for the last three years. Now, that I have got the reward, all the credit goes to Mushy bhai,” he said.

It was never easy to pick wickets on the Dubai pitch almost equivalent to a road. The pressure was on after Australia were cruising in the morning with Aaron Finch (62) and Usman Khawaja (85) providing the right start.

“Being a debutant, of course there is pressure. In the first session, I wasn’t feeling well because I did not bowl as well. However, my team-mates were very supporting and encouraging and gave me the confidence to perform,” he said.

While Asif claimed six wickets, leg-spinner Yasir Shah went despite bowling the most number of overs (28). “This is a team game. He might not have picked a wicket, but he is a world-class bowler. It was my luck that I got so many wickets,” Asif said.

“Yes, there was pressure after not picking a wicket in the first session as a debutant. However, I kept all these things on the side and focused on my bowling and in the end, God helped me.”